Fountain Pen Review: Ensso PIUMA Minimal Fountain Pens

Fountain Pen Review: Ensso PIUMA Minimal Fountain Pens

The PIUMA Minimal Fountain Pen was originally a Kickstarter project but is now available directly from the ENSSO web site. The appeal of the PIUMA is the simplicity of the design. The shape is a simple cigar shape, available in three metals: black painted aluminum ($79),titanium (currently sold out) and brass ($99).

The pens ship is simple black cardboard boxes with the ENSSO logo stamped on top. The pens are protected in molded foam shells. The packaging is just enough to protect the pens and feel appropriate for the purchase price but not fussy. I did find it a little challenging to get the pens out of the foam and required wedging a pencil in to the foam to wrench the steel and brass pens out as the fit was a tiny bit too snug. I guess its better to be too snug than too loose but I started to wonder if I was a weakling for not being able to get the pens out.

All the pens came with an international cartridge converter included and the Bock nibs accept standard European cartridges.

PIUMA Minimal fountain pens

Under each cap, the user can choose between an array of Bock nibs: polished stainless steel, black steel or titanium in an array of widths. While I have a lot of experience with Schmidt nibs, I was not as familiar with Bock nibs (or nibs specifically branded as “Bock” as I know both companies sell nibs branded with other companies logos etched into them so its often unclear where a nib may have been manufactured). I’ll go into specifics about the writing details a little further down in the review.

PIUMA Minimal fountain pen titanium nib

The titanium nib is stamped “titan” and has a brushed satin metallic finish. Aesthetically, its the most understated.

PIUMA Minimal polished stainless steel nib

The stamping on the steel nib 1.1mm was different with a larger stag design and a simple line instead of the more decorative double line with band seen on the other nibs. The word “Germany” is also added.

PIUMA Minimal black stainless steel nib

The black steel nib is pretty understated and consistent in looks to the titanium. I got both the black and titanium nibs in extra fine.

PIUMA Minimal brass fountain pen

Aesthetically, I find the PIUMA pen very striking in its simplicity. They do, however, have a tendency to roll around a lot because of their design.

PIUMA Minimal stainless steel

PIUMA Minimal black aluminum body

All three pens are the same width and length. They measure 5.5″/ 14cm capped, 5.1″/ 13cm uncapped from tip of the nib to the end the barrel. They can sort of be posted though I didn’t find them to be very stable and they measure 6.69″/ 17cm. The Brass and Titanium models were the least stable posted. The Aluminum was more cooperative posted. Officially, the ENSSO site does not recommend posting.

PIUMA weights

I weighed the PIUMA pens with the converters filled to give a more accurate idea of how they would feel in real world experience. ENSSO lists weights on their site but I noticed that the weights are lower than the numbers I got and I assume they were weighing the pens empty, no converters or cartridges included.

To give some perspective, I included my old standby chart  (which I’m noticing could stand a refresh) with the weights of  some common fountain pens (capped and filled): a plastic Kaweco Sport Classic, an aluminum Lamy AL-Star and the Lamy Studio in brushed steel are probably the most recognizable these days. These are not heavy pens by any means, but I’d basically have to hold FOUR Lamy Studios to equal the weight of the PIUMA in brass.

The PIUMA pens are definitely pens designed for larger hands or for people who tend to prefer weightier, bigger pens.

PIUMA Minimal fountain pens writing sample

In my writing tests, I started with the nibs on one body but in the end I switched them around as I determined that the weights of the individual pens affected how each nib wrote. Some of the ink colors might be a little off as I did not clean the nibs. I was more interested in the writing experience than color fidelity in this particular experiment. (Ignore anywhere that I wrote “steel body” I meant write “titanium”.)

This was my first chance to really get to try a titanium nib and there is some spring in the nib but not as much as I anticipated. I was able to use it at any angle. It did not catch on the paper or create any writing issues, I could flex it a little but I didn’t try to push it too hard. I felt like I was able to get a bit of spring from the black steel EF nib as well so I’m not sure the upcharge for the titanium nib is entirely necessary. Maybe it would be more noticeable to get a titanium at wider widths where you lose some of the spring in steel nibs with a broad?

I had the most difficulty with the brass pen body. I physically developed wrist aches trying to use it. It was just too heavy for me. You can see above how I could not maintain a consistent writing style through six lines.

PIUMA Minimal writing samples

On the second page, I swapped the nibs around. Basically, I could use any nib on the black aluminum pen. It is by far the lightest model, weighing close to the Lamy Studio. The matte finish made it easy to grip and I was able to control the pen with any of the nibs. I put the 1.1mm steel nib in the titanium body and that combination worked both aesthetically and from an ergonomic standpoint. I was able to get the pen to perform and the weight was evenly distributed.

And finally, putting the black fine nib into the brass body was actually easier to control as it required a lighter touch. The brass is still way too heavy for me. I’m curious if there’s anyone out there who has purchased the brass PIUMA who has been using it as a daily writer? I am a small human at 5’4″ with child-sized hands so I know that the brass PIUMA was not made for me. I would love to hear how it works for someone who is 6’2″ with bear paws. Franz, are you out there?

All in all, I found the PIUMA pens to be lovely but challenging. I think these would be great pens to purchase in person if you had the option to hold them in your hand and feel the weights and try the nibs. I will bring all three of these pens with me to the D.C. pen show and S.F. pen show for people to try and experience for themselves. Please grab me at one of the after hours bar events to check them out in person. We can swap nibs and you can which configuration you like best.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by ENSSO for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Giveaway: BigiDesign Ti Arto Refill Friendly Pen

Giveaway: BigiDesign Ti Arto Refill Friendly Pen

The folks at BigiDesign have kindly sent me a NEW  Ti Arto Refill Friendly Pen  ($85) to give away to one lucky reader. I reviewed and tested this pen awhile back and put it through its paces and I can tell you that if you have been looking for a sturdy, solid titanium pen that will accept a wide range of refills (over 200 different refills at last count!) that looks and feels good in your hand, this is the pen for you. You can have the convenience of your favorite gel, rollerball, felt tip or ballpoint refill without the plasticky look of the drugstore/big box pen.

If you love the Pilot G2 (or some other refill), you can buy the refills you prefer and use the durable, reusable Ti Arto Pen thereby reducing your amount of plastic waste, if even by a little bit.

So… I bet you’re waiting to find, “How do I enter to win the Ti Arto?”

TO ENTER: Tell me what your favorite pen refill is. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Saturday, July 29, 2017. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Sunday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your REAL email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 10 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US and APO only.

If you like the Ti Arto, you’ll love the new Ti Pocket Pro ($65) now available for pre-order on BigiDesign’s web site. It accepts over 80 different refills and adjusts in length depending on whether you fill it with a rollerball style refill or a Parker-style refill.  It starts shipping in late August.

Pen Review: Cross Century II Botanica Fountain Pen

Pen Review: Cross Century II Botanica Fountain Pen

Cross Botanica Fountain Pen Box

Review by Laura Cameron

The Fahrney’s catalog is going to be the death of me.  When I was a kid, the Fahrney’s catalog used to land in our mailbox fairly often. I knew my dad was into fountain pens but, as I’ve previously stated, as a kid, fountain pens didn’t really hold much interest for me.  Flash forward 30+ years and now I eagerly await the catalog. Except now, I always find something I need to have.

Not that long ago I was flipping through the catalog and I spied a beautiful pen, the Cross Century II Botanica Gold Trim Fountain Pen. I’m not entirely sure why I was so taken with it. To be sure, it is a gorgeous pen but my tastes generally run towards the modern and not the ornamental.  But sure enough, the Green Daylily with that beautiful gold nib had caught my attention. 

I scouted around a bit and found out that the pen debuted back in 2015 and received mixed reviews. Maybe people through it was very pricey, especially since the base price doesn’t include a converter ($8.50 additional). But many people agreed that the pen was a beauty and didn’t look like much else they owned.

Cross Botanica Fountain Pen Packaging

I ordered and waited in anticipation. When the pen arrived, I wasn’t disappointed.  I had expected it to be heavier than it as, but there was a delicacy about it that I do love. I ordered a fine nib and I have been very pleased with it. The pen writes super smoothly. I’ve tested a few inks in it (Noodler’s Cactus Eel and Sailor Jentle Sakura Mori) and have been pleased with both in the pen. The inks flow smoothly and the writing is very fluid and easy.  Although I’m typically a silver or white gold girl, I can’t stop looking at all the yellow gold details: the line work on the nib, the pavé-textured pen cap ring, and the highlights in the daylily design. 

Cross Botanica Fountain Pen Packaging

Cross Botanica Fountain Pen Nib

(Editor’s interjected question: “Does the cap post comfortably?” Laura’s reply was “When you post it, the metal pavé cap ring doesn’t quite touch the pen body. I wasn’t worried about posting it and it does post but, I tend not to post my pens. I wasn’t concerned about the cap coming into contact with the designs.”)

This pen probably isn’t for everyone, but I’m enjoying having it in my collection.

Cross Botanica and Starlite Fountain Pen with

(The Botanica pictured with the Cross Century II Starlight Twilight Gray Selectip from The Desk archives)

Laura is a tech editor, podcaster, knitter, spinner and recent pen addict. You can learn more about her knitting and tea adventures on her website, The Corner of Knit & Tea and can find her on Instagram as Fluffykira.

Ink Review: Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red

Ink Review: Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red

This is the last of the Montblanc limited edition inks for the week. I picked up William Shakespeare Velvet Red ($19 for 35ml) at Pen Place in Crown Center. It’s positively lethal to have access to fountain pens and ink and paper within walking distance of my office!

Montblanc Velvet Red bottle

I haven’t quite figured out the logic behind why Montblanc sometimes uses the square faceted bottles, sometimes uses the long rectangular bottles and then sometimes uses these round bottles. I’m assuming certain themes go with each but the Miles Davis Jazz Blue went into the square bottle, which somehow I would have assumed would go into the round bottle like this one with the other “legends”.And I think last year they put the Permanent Grey in the round bottle so that blows my theory too. So… I don’t know? Do you?

Finally, the splotch of ink on this bottle is very unbecoming. Of all the Shakespearian related things you could possibly have considered, a red splotch?

Montblanc Velvet Red Swatches

For this review, I’m going to start with the swatches because what I found fascinating was that when I swatched this ink, and I did it twice, the color on the swatch card turned out extremely dark. It did not have much shading either. I thought maybe I had over-soaked the card so I did it again and got the same results. Velvet Red appears to be a fairly dense ink, or it can be. So, I thought I’d like to note that first. Especially, compared to other deep reds like Sailor Grenade and Oku-Yama and Diamine Oxblood and Matador Red.

Montblanc Velvet Red Writing Sample

I also tried very hard to adjust the photo of my writing sample to be as accurate as possible but its always difficult to get exact reproductions and adjust for monitor differences. Velvet Red does hint at the tonal variations present in velvet red. How it sometimes looks very red but will have a brownish undertone. However, that same color variation is also very reminiscent of something else: dried blood. And while that is certainly an overriding aspect of many of Shakespeare’s plays, I couldn’t quite get past the fact that it looked like I was writing with dried blood.

This could be quite handy for a Halloween missive or for the more Gothic among us but I found it a little morbid for my Monday calendar notes. Out, out damned spot!


DISCLAIMER: Some items used in this review were sent to me free of charge by for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Montblanc Golden Yellow

Ink Review: Montblanc Golden Yellow

Montblanc Golden Yellow was released about the same time Lucky Orange came out this spring. Yellow inks are hard to make usable. Golden Yellow turns out to be an exception to this rule.

I had the ink in my TWSBI Mini for several months and was tickled that, even with an EF nib, the ink was a deep enough shade to actually be visible. Really.  I took my sample to two pen shows and let other people try it who were also suitably impressed with the performance. To be honest it is the first and only yellow ink that has ever survived past  the swatch-and-sample phase for me.

Montblanc Golden Yellow writing sample

When tested with a dip nib, it definitely leans towards a more orangey shade and in a wider nib it also gets a bit “orange juice”-like. There’s shading in the color because it is so light but no noticeable sheeening.

Note to self: be sure to thoroughly and completely clean your nib and feed before switching ink colors because any contamination will be evident with a color as light as Golden Yellow!

Montblanc Golden Yellow Swatch Comparison

The only colors I had in the swatches that were comparable were from Robert Oster Signature. The Yellow Sunset from his line was probably closest in color if a bit more ruddy. Yellow Sunrise was more yellowy and Olive Green was browner.

Montblanc Golden Yellow is a limited edition color so its definitely one to grab while you can if its a color you like. I’m partial to it but as with all Montblanc inks, it is premium-priced.


DISCLAIMER: Some items used in this review were sent to me free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

News: Art Goodbye, Art Hello.

Art News

In sad news, Art Supply Posse recorded its last episode last week. Heather and Kathy said farewell with their favorite podcaster, Brad Dowdy. I don’t think it will be the last time we’ll hear from either of these ladies as they will both be going on to pursue other audio endeavors.

In happier art-related news,  Art Supplies in Action is a new community-based forum to share artwork, discuss art in all forms, art supplies, and art history. The goal is to create a real threaded forum that allows for discussion that’s not ephemeral like much of social media currently available. If this sounds like something you might be interested in participating in, sign up today. Hopefully, with community support and participation, Art Supplies in Action could become a useful, searchable (and active) resource that is inclusive and friendly.

Pen News

Daly’s Pen Shop in Milwaukee is closing after 93 years. Bummer. While Daly’s retail store front is closing, his online sales will continue with a thriving business buying and selling vintage pens through his site and Ebay. Times, they are a-changin’.

D.C. Pen Show

There are just two weeks until the D.C. Pen Show and folks across the country are in preparation for the show. Here in K.C., we are madly making Col-o-ring Ink Testing Books so that they will be available for all who want them in D.C. I will be helping at the Vanness Pen Shop table this year so come by and say hello.

col-o-ring in process

I know that many other folks are also frantically preparing for the show– getting their goods in order, packing boxes and putting the final touches on their wares to make everything perfect.  I’ve been watching as all the hype surrounds Comic-Con in San Diego this weekend knowing that in the pen community, we are all preparing for our own version just weeks away.

Last minute prep on couture fishing vests, anyone?  Fishing vest fashion show this year?


Link Love: Asserting Pencil Dominance This Week




Paper & Notebooks:

Other Interesting Things: