Category: Pen Review

Review: Jinhao Fountain Pens

Jinhao 886 fountain pens

I received these two little lemon-lime treats from a Desk reader to try out and I’ve been delighted to take them for a test drive. They are the Jinhao 886 “bullet” fountain pens. They are small well-weighted, metal enamel fountain pens at a budget price. They kind of remind me of jelly beans. It looks like they can be purchased through Amazon for about $7.99 a piece with Prime Shipping though the bright yellow color isn’t shown. Alternately you can find the Jinhao for even less on Ebay if you’re willing to brave it.

Jinhao 886 fountain pens

The nib is labelled “18K GP” but I don’t think it means what they think it means. Not for the prices. Maybe the nib is gold plate but that’s not really why someone is going to buy a Jinhao 886. Its a stiff, steel medium nib and not purchased for its “poshness”.

Jinhao 886 fountain pens

The pens are just 5″ long capped and 5.5″ posted. And the caps do post nicely without adversely affecting the weighting. The whole pen weighs 21 gsm capped and filled which is pretty weighty for the little guys. Compact and solid.

Fountain Pen Weights

As for the nibs, stiff. Stiff, stiff, stiff. And a solid medium nib. Which is a perfectly acceptable size and feeling but I have been using so many fine and extra fine and slightly softer nibs that the Jinhao 886 was noticeable nail-like. But I suspect these pens were specifically designed for students and kids so a sturdy nib is probably quite up to the task of grade schoolers learning to write.

But I was really quite charmed by the pens overall. They feel nice in the hand, wrote pretty well right out of the package. I had to do a little light sanding on one nib on a nail buffer but it was cursory at best. And the size and shape is quite nice for we of small hands. Kids and ladies of dainty hands might quite enjoy having one of these pens in their collection. And at the price, there’s no reason not to try them out if the opportunity presents itself.

These would make good pens for experimentation as well. If you are looking to learn to do a little nib grinding, this would be a good pen to test that out. Or want to have a pen with some less-than-well-behaved ink (like Emerald of Chivor or bulletproofs or such), filling a Jinhao 886 would be a good way to have you pen and use it too without concerns about damaging a more expensive, rare or collectible pen. Consider a “play” pen.


Big thanks to MJ for sending these little bon bons!

Review: Baron Fig Squire

Baron Fig Squire open

I recently received the Kickstarter edition Baron Fig Squire in silver aluminum. The pen came in the Baron Fig signature wine soft-touch box, similar to the box that the Baron Fig Confidant notebooks are shipped, nestled in carved black foam. The packaging is appropriate to the pen without being too over-the-top. Generally, as long as the pen is protected in shipping and delivery and the brand is satisfied with its presentation with making the packaging too ostentatious, I’m good. This packaging fit that description.

Several people had mentioned the branding on the pen being a bit much, having both the sword icon etched on one side and the name “BARON FIG” on the other. In the aluminum silver finish, these logos are actually quite subtle and I had to catch the pen in just the right light to see them so I don’t think the branding is too much. Once the pen is removed from the packaging, there really isn’t much to remind you what the pen is. We, as pen nerds, will know its a Baron Fig Squire but the the average consumer, there’s a strong possibility that a year from now, someone would ask them what the pen was and without the brand name on the pen, they might not remember off the top of their head. Since the branding is etched, I also suspect that it will patina over time.

Baron Fig Squire writing sample

The overall aesthetic of the pen is really quite understated in the hand. The finish of the silver aluminum is smooth without being slippery and the shape is comfortable and well-balanced. I was prepared to find the pen either heavy or too masculine but its neither. The writing end is a tad bulbous, aesthetically, but when writing, I didn’t notice it. It just feels pleasant in the hand.

The twist mechanism is unusual. Its a short half turn, if that much, expose the tip, and there is no knurling or texture added to the end for grip so if you have slippery fingers, the retracting mechanism might prove a little annoying. Maybe I’m spoiled by years of Retro 51 with the deep knurling that makes it easy to twist the mechanism even with wet or greasy fingers but the Squire is definitely for a drier pad. With the rollerball refill, you will definitely want to get the tip retracted too or you’ll have a big leak in your bag or pocket. If you swap out the refill with a ballpoint, it would be less of a concern.

One thing I did notice was that the silver finish of the pen pretty much picks up dirt and ink from everything. I was continually wiping smudges off the pen as I used it. Had I known the silver was quite so prone to gunge, I probably would have chosen the charcoal over the silver for a slightly more camouflage approach to dirt. The silver is pretty but clearly I’m messy.

The Baron Fig Squire ships with a branded Schmidt P8127 rollerball refill. Its a little too liquidy for me making my writing appear even more inconsistent than ever. But the refill is something that can be easily remedied. It looks like the Squire will accept a Parker-style capless refill so I’ll probably grab a couple Monteverde fine gel refills in blue-black, black and maybe turquoise ($4 each from Goldspot Pens) and try those out instead.

Baron Fig Squire closed

Overall, I really like the pen. And I say that with a bit of surprise because the pen was so hyped. Not that I didn’t expect the guys over at Baron Fig to do a good job. I did. But the Squire was a bit like a summer blockbuster movie for the pen community. There was so much hype and excitement that I wasn’t sure that actually holding the pen in my hand could live up to my expectations.

But in the end, I am really quite pleased. I suspect I will use it regularly. Its aesthetically appealing, comfortable in the hand and allows me plenty of refill options since I’m a great big picky-pants about that. And isn’t that what you want from a good pen? Something that feels good in the hand and writes the way YOU want it to write?

If you missed out on the Kickstarter and are interested in purchasing a Baron Fig Squire, they are taking pre-orders on their web site for $55.

Review: Pelikan Stola III Fountain Pen

Pelikan Stola III

The Pelikan Stola III ($36) is probably the closest competitor Pelikan has to the Pilot Metropolitan or the Lamy Safari. If you’ve been looking for a professional, upscale looking fountain pen in the sub-$50 range, The Stola III is definitely a strong contender. However, there are some plusses and minuses to consider before hitting the “buy it now” button.

For me, a big plus is the beautifully clean simple design of the Stola III. Its a matte silver pen with a gloss black clip with Pelikan’s signature “beak” design. Its a sophisticated design that is both modern and classic. The body of the pen is metal on a brass base, not plastic, so it feels sturdy. The total weight of the pen, capped with a full long cartridge is 32 gms. Uncapped and unposted with a cartrdige, it weighs 20 gms.

The finish of the pen is a fine mica metallic silver with a clear gloss finish over the metallic paint. The pen itself is metal but there is definitely layers of paint and clear gloss over it, like a nice auto or motorcycle paint finish. The end cap and clip are flat black and glossy.

Fountain Pen Weights

I’m including my weight chart which shows some other common models capped and filled.

Pelikan Stola III packaging

In general, I am not much for pen packaging. I prefer that it be protective for shipping and storage purposes but it doesn’t need to be much more than that. The packaging for the Stola III falls right into that sweet spot. There was a white outer shipper box and then the inner matte silver paperboard box that reminded me of a book. When opened, the pen was tucked under a black, satin ribbon in a flocked, recessed area and stored in a clear, cellophane tube. I removed the cellophane for photography purposes and left the paper tag that is tucked under the clip.

Pelikan Stola III packaging

Inside the pen was a long European cartridge in blue. In shipping, my cartridge ended up leaking. I suspect it was a result of the winter weather here in Kansas City which vacillated between freezing and a balmy 70 degrees fahrenheit this weekend so the seal probably split causing the leak.  I swapped it out for a Pelikan Edelstein Topaz long cartridge instead. This is actually one of the reasons to put the Stola III in the plus column. It is a sub-$50 fountain pen that takes standard European cartridges or converters. Unlike the Pilot Metropolitan that takes either Pilot cartridges or a Pilot-specific converter or the Lamy Safari which also requires proprietary converters and cartridges.

Pelikan Stola III nib

The Stola III is only available with a medium nib which is steel. It is not the same nib that comes on the M-series pens. The Stola III nib is a much stiffer steel nib, not gold. Not for $36. The advantage is that the Stola III nib is much easier to use for new fountain pen writers as the nib is more forgiving at more angles than the M-series nibs. I myself have not had the best luck with the M-series nibs because, as a left hander, my upside down writing angle causes me to push rather than pull the nib which chokes the softer tines of the M-series pens making the writing stutter and start and stop. I did not have this problem with the Stola III. The Stola III wrote smoothly and had no false starts for me.

Pelikan Stola III writing sample

I was a bit concerned that the medium nib might be too wide for my small writing but it actually wrote quite nicely and very few of my letters filled in. The medium nib allowed the Topaz ink to shade nicely and the nib was a nice balance of smooth and a little grippy on the Rhodia paper which was a perfect balance. Sometimes pens can be too smooth and I feel like I have to chase to keep up with them but the Stola III seemed to be the perfect sweet spot. On other papers, the Stola III felt even smoother and even had a little bit of a stub look and feel to it which I liked.

Pelikan Stola III writing

The longer I write with the Stola III the more I enjoy the feeling of it. I like the smooth grip section and the weight of the pen. The only other thing I discovered is that because of the way the friction cap works, the cap cannot be posted without potentially damaging the plastic inside the cap that is what makes the closure work and keeps the pen from drying out.

Pelikan Stola III snap cap detail

As you can see in the photo above the plastic edge inside the cap sits awfully high and when I tried to rest the cap on the end of the pen I could feel it rubbing on the plastic while simultaneously not making a good seal and wobbling precariously. I did not mind not posting the Stola III as the pen is 4 5/8″ (11.5cm) unposted which was long enough to comfortably write with for me but if your hands are larger it may pose an issue. If you absolutely need to be able to post your cap, then the Stola III might not be your pen of choice.

Pelikan Stola III Lamy Safari Pilot Retro Pop Metropolitan

Compared to the Lamy Safari and Pilot Metropolitan/Retro Pop, the Stola III has a similar overall length and width to the Pilot but does not taper quite as much. It definitely has a more refined, sophisticated look. I’m already thinking of it as my dressier pen where my Retro Pop and Safaris are more playful, casual pens.

Overall, the Stola III offers a lot at a low price point: good looks, metal body, standard European cartridges and converter options, nice nib and build quality. On the downside though, the pen is only available in a medium nib, only available in the silver and black model at present and the cap does not post. Hopefully, Pelikan will consider offering more color and nib size options in the future to make the Stola III more appealing to a wider audience though I think most pen enthusiasts can find a place in their hearts and in their wallets for this little gem.


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

Review: Lamy Al-Star Charged Green

Laym AL-Star Charged Green Writing Sample

The new limited edition Lamy AL-Star in Charged Green is absolutely beautiful. It clearly is THE signature color for a Lamy pen for me. I’ve always favored the AL-Stars to the Safaris as well for the beautiful luster of the the anodized aluminum as well and the price increase for the aluminum is nominal for the added good looks. If you are a green aficionado then you will want to grab one of the Lamy AL-Stars in Charged Green this year while you can. It’s really a lovely addition to any pen collection and can be had in the fountain pen, rollerball or ballpoint model. I really get a kick out of the 80s springy look of the ballpoint if only I liked ballpoint pens.

Laym AL-Star Charged Green Writing Test

I got the Charged Green model with the F nib, however, the Charged Green ink was as much of a letdown to me as last year’s Neon Lime. Sadly, both colors are too light to be used for much more than highlighting. I even swapped out the nib in the AL-Star from the F to an M to a 1.1mm in hopes that a wider nib might allow the Charged Green ink to be usable. Sadly, even when it dried, it was still too light and shaded too dramatically from super light to just-barely-legible to be usable.

n the end, I swapped out the Charged Green ink fro Diamine Meadow which was a close match to the pen and much darker so that I could use the smooth F nib.

feb2-2

Laym AL-Star Charged Green Ink Comparison

In my swab comparisons, you can see that even Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-Rin appears darker than either the Charged Green or the Neon Lime. Lamy keeps trying to make a good lime green. Maybe next year…?

Laym AL-Star Charged Green Pen Comparison

Finally, I also included a comparison photo of the Neon Lime Safari and the Pilot Retro Pop in green so that it is clear the the the Lamy Charged Green Al-Star is definitely more of a yellow-y green. Its definitely a metallic guacamole green when compared to the other two pens.

All-in-all, I’m a big fan of the AL-Star in Charged Green but the ink is not what I’d hoped it would be. But, of course, as a fan of all things green, this pen color was made for me.


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

Pen Review: Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens close-up

The Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens, available in SB, MB and BB, were something I discovered in a very roundabout way. I was reading Lisa Condon’s blog again and she was talking about more of the tools she liked yo use. I started clicking on links and next thing I knew, voila! I had these in my cart. They are longer than a standard Micron pen, more like a paint brush length and a bit more expensive at $3.90 each but the ink is fade resistant, archival and waterproof and I think the tips are a superior quality to the standard Pigma brush line so I think the upcharge is worth it.

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen Tips

The tips of the pens are felt/foam/whatever-it-is and it is the springiest version of this material that I’ve ever experienced. Even with pressure, the points and edges spring back into shape quickly and easily. Making them fun to use and they keep their brush point shape. The point retention seems really good too though I’ve only used them for about a week so time will be the real determining factor here but so far, so good.

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens writing sample

These were so fun to draw with the range of line widths, even with the finest tip size was quite dramatic. The BB was big! If you like to work large or want to do something like calligraphic graffiti, this would be a great pen for it. Such fun. In my waterproof test, I had no issues with water but when I added the Sakura Koi Coloring Brush pens over the watered wet ink, I did get some running of the colors. I don’t know if this was a reaction from the ink in the Coloring Brush pens or the combination of the water, Professional Brush pen and Coloring Brush pens. That said, the Professional Brush pens were not affected by the water at all but did get some color travel with the other markers so you may want to do some experiments before using these pens on artwork just in case there are any other fugitive color reactions. My next experiments will probably be with actual watercolor paints and the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens. I think that would look great if the colors don’t bleed.

Overall, I love the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens and I look forward to seeing the longevity of the tips. So springy, I hope they last a long time!


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

Pen Review: Gelly Roll 64-Piece Gel Pen Set

gelly rolls

Hoo, boy! When I decide to go down the path I pretty much take the WHOLE ROAD. In the case of the Sakura Gelly Roll pens, I got the whole kit-and-caboodle! That’s right, I got the Sakura Gelly Roll 64-Color Set Box ($80). I mean, really? How was I supposed to pick just a handful?

The pens came in a translucent plastic box divided into five sections and the wrapper has a color key on the reverse that I could fill in see what each color looks like. Don’t you just want to dig your fingers into each of these compartments and pull out all the pens?!?! The box is a standard plastic art supply tackle box but did not add anything to the cost of the purchase of the all these pens and gave a nice way to keep them all organized. The 64-pen set works out to $1.25 per pen which is cheaper than buying the pens individually so the case is basically free. WIN!

gelly rolls

The 64-color set includes 17 classic/regular pens (in 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm), 14 metallic pens, 10 Moonlight pens, 13 Stardust pens, and 10 Shadow Pens (5 in gold shadow and 5 in silver shadow).

The Classic Gelly pens (0.3 mm and 0.4 mm) glide on in a gloss look and dry to an opaque matte finish. These are available in fine and medium point and include on opaque white which is probably one of the most popular options. The white is a great pen for adding in highlights on drawings, using as a “white out” pen or for writing on dark papers. The Gelly Roll Classics look like matte paint when dry which is part of their appeal.

The Metallic pens (0.4mm)  have a fine mica metallic sheen and are opaque making them great for dark stocks.  The colors included a range of jewel tones, gold, silver and copper plus a black metallic which reminded me of asphalt.

The Moonlight colors (listed as 0.5 mm but its seems much wider) are fluorescent and/or super opaque bright colors but take an age to dry and are a pretty wide point. Despite the slow dry times and wide tips, I find myself reaching for these over and over.

The Stardust pens (listed as 0.5 mm but its seems much wider), particularly the clear which is one of my favorite, are glitter with an archival ink base. The glitter may flake away but the colors will remain true. These also had a bit longer dry time but not as long as the Moonlight or Shadow pens.

The Shadow pens (0.7 mm) are the strangest of the bunch, in my opinion. These pens will halo with either silver or gold with a core of the ink color. They are very thick, viscous color and take some time to dry but would be fun for decorating envelopes or letters. They are definitely a bit too broad from general note-taking.

gelly rolls

I tried to photograph my samples from a couple angles to catch the light and show the tinkly effects of the various pens but I think I’ll end up having to put together a quick video just to show off the full effect at some point.

gelly rolls

gelly rolls

gelly rolls

Strangely, my favorite colors in the set ended up being the Moonlight Fluorescent Vermillion, the Stardust Sky Star, the Metallic Emerald (that was sort of a “duh”), the Stardust Clear glitter, the Classic medium orange, and the fine Classic Royal Blue. I pulled those out and added them to my daily pen case. I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the Shadow pens but I suspect envelope addressing will be their forte.

If you think you might ever want to go down the Gelly Roll Rabbit Hole, I think you’re going to have to buy the whole 64-pen box. You’re going to want ALL OF THE COLORS. I know I did and I’m glad I did. Yes, $80 is a lot of money but then I think how much I spend on one fountain pen and it all goes back into perspective.


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

Review: Koi Watercolor Brush Pens 12-Color Set

Koi Coloring Brush Pens

I was introduced to the Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pens 12-color set ($27)  by way of Lisa Condon’s blog, Today Is Going To Be To Be Awesome. She had a post on her sidebar about her favorite tools to use for drawing and illustration and one of her recommended pens for sketchbook use were the 12-color set of Koi Coloring Brush Pens.

The pens are felt-tipped and shaped like a paint brush tip. The colors are bright, clean and vivid and are water soluble so they will blend together easily allowing the 12-color set to extend itself into a wider range of colors by blending the colors together.

If you do blend the colors together, be sure to have a piece of scratch paper handy because the colors will migrate from pen to pen and you’ll want to clean off any color transfer that might occur in the process though this can also create some interesting an unexpected results. Just be prepared.

Koi Coloring Brush Pens

The set comes in a plastic sleeve but I prefer to dump out all my pens immediately into a pen case or a cup so they are handy and accessible. If they are all locked away in a protective sleeve, I find they don’t get used which is a waste.  Rolling around on my desk, I wrote notes, doodled, colored and generally just enjoyed the bright vivid colors all week which was welcomed in the bleak January days I have to say!

The black pen in the set is also water soluble so I would not recommend using it as an outliner and then trying to go back and fill in with colors as the black will migrate. The word “KOI” on my sample has darker colors because the black started to creep into the center. If you want to do outlining in black brush pen and then use the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens instead which are permanent and then add color with the Koi Coloring Brush Pens.

Koi Coloring Brush Pens

I think these pens might spend a little time out with our coloring books this week and see how it plays there. I’d also like to add in a little light water brush to lighten the colors a bit and help to blend so that the colors will play even more like watercolor. I did try a water brush after photographing the samples and the colors do continue to blend even several hours later so these will definitely be lots of fun to play with. A very clean, portable way to use watercolors on the go! And, wow! Are the colors ever bright and clean and juicy!


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