New Find: Made to Order Samples

New Find: Made to Order Samples

By Jessica Coles

There is no way to hide my love of inks. This love of inks actually drew me into the fountain pen world – there are not enough colors in the Gelly Roll line to satisfy my quest for more colors.

This is not a cheap thing, though. Bottles of ink can cost anywhere from $6 to … well, anything, really. Samples are a great way for me to get a taste of ink, try it for a while, and move on to the next quickly. I have lots of samples by now, though. Lots. But there is always more to try – more inks coming out, limited editions, inks you can only procure if you hike 50 miles up a mountain in isolated Japan and have a two-hour interview with the only person on earth who knows how to make an exact color. The list goes on and shows no sign of stopping. In fact, the pace of new inks brought to the market seems to be increasing.

Shigure Inks is new to the fountain pen world and the ink scene.  This made it all the more impressive to me when I discovered they carried a variety of inks that are hard to find in the US – inks like Lennon Toolbar, iPaper, and Tono & Lims.

But with hard-to-find ink comes higher prices and usually smaller amounts of ink. I was only able to occasionally get one or two bottles of these inks and I despaired of ever being able to collect samples of each.


Then one day I discovered the ink sample order form.

I found that Shigure Ink will allow me to order ANY ink in ANY size. They are priced based on the per mL price of the specific ink plus a charge for the vial. ANY ink. I can order 1-2 mL of EVERY ink.

The sample form requires that you list the ink name and the volume desired for each sample. Once submitted, Shigure sends an invoice that, once paid, results in your order being shipped. Quickly!

A longer review of the actual inks themselves will be coming soon, but for now, look upon the amazing finds:

The last time I saw iPaper inks was at the San Francisco pen show where they were in short supply.

Take some time and look through the ink selection at Shigure. The inks have become so much more accessible! Small samples means more variety of ink!

DISCLAIMER: All items in this review were purchased by me to add to my ink collection. For more information, see our About page.


Link Love: Bakelite, Curidas and Abs?!?

Link Love: Bakelite, Curidas and Abs?!?

I got to see a Platinum Curidas in person today. The nib is excellent and the retractable mechanism seems spot-on. The translucent plastic body looks a lot like the material used on the Prefounte.

platinum Curidas

Do you see the plastic nub in the bottom right hand photo above? That is just above the nib opening. It looks like a rollstop but since this pen also features a clip, it seems redundant and makes me wonder why it’s there, right by the nib so that it could affect your grip. WTH?

Opus 88 Omar - new colors

Also, I got to see the new Opus 88 Omar colors. The pink and purple colorway was put into my hand with a “Does this match your hair?” question. It does not. And the pen is HUGE. I know the business direction for Opus88 is to “go big or go home” but I am going to continue to cling to my Fantasia pen until they come to their senses and make some more small pens. We are not all giants.

Vanness Pen Shop

So, exactly where did I see all these wonderful treasures? Vanness Pen Shop, of course. I drove down on Tuesday to help load up the van and drive to the upcoming Baltimore/Washington Pen Show. That’s right, not only will Vanness Pen Shop be setting up a selection of inks and papers from the around the world but Ms. Jesi and I will also be at the show. I will be behind the ink towers at the Vanness table and Jesi will be manning a table of Esterbrook pens and a selection of other pens and such. Come by and say hi!

Vanness Pen Shop

Now, back to the Vanness Shop… if you have not had a chance to make the pilgrimage to Little Rock to check out the store, put it on your bucket list. The Arkansas Pen Show is just a few weeks away and one of the highlights of the weekend is the Open House held at Vanness Pen Shop on Friday night. You never know who might be behind the counter (Me? Gentleman Stationer? Cary from Kenro? You never know!) or standing on tables (That’s almost always Lisa Vanness!).

Vanness Pen Shop

So much good stuff to see at the shop.

I’m sure you’re ready for your weekly Link Love now though, right? This is a “pen week”. It’s kind of like when you go to the gym and have an “abs day” versus a “leg day”. This week, we are concentrating all our energy on pens. There’s two reviews for the new Wancher Bakelite. As a fan of vintage Bakelite bangles and assorted jewelry, the Wancher Bakelite pen didn’t capture how I think of Bakelite. Not that most people would want a vintage vibe as much as I would but why else would someone choose to make a pen out of a material that stains if not to have it imbued with the appeal of Bakelite jewelry?

Maybe next week will be a “notebooks week”?




Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:


Fountain Pen Review: Truphae Monthly Subscription Box

Review by Laura Cameron

Have you ever tried a subscription box for something you love? We were sent an Inkredible Box from Truphae for the purposes of this review, and I was super excited to see what they’re all about!

Truephae is a small pen and stationary shop located in Greenville, South Carolina founded to share a love of fountain pens and writing instruments (and paper and cases and other accoutrements) with everyone. The Inkredible boxes were created as a monthly subscription for fountain pen lovers or new collectors to receive a box in the mail with new products to try. There are three levels: The Inkmeister ($25 monthly), The Penthusiast ($75 monthly) and The Collector ($125 monthly). We were sent the Inkmeister for this review!

The Inkmeister Box promises a budget fountain pen useful for testing new inks and a selection of inks to try. The box we received had a Baoer Carbon Fire Fountain Pen ($15.95) and 5 samples of J. Herbin Inks.

This was my first time using a Baoer Carbon Fire Fountain Pen, and actually the first time I had heard of the brand. The pen feels like a metal body, with a carbon design on the barrel, rose gold trim and a gunmetal cap. The nib is a standard steel nib iridium point in Fine. The cap is a snap cap, and is postable (with another snap!) but rattles a bit when posted, so I chose not to. The pen comes with a converter, and I went ahead and filled mine with J. Herbin Blue Pervenche, which was included in the samples. The ink flowed through the feed to the nib easily, and the nib wrote fairly smoothly. Overall, I would say it is a perfectly adequate pen to get someone started into fountain pens, and probably a good pen for testing out those sparkle inks!

As I said, the ink samples included were selections from J. Herbin (the inks included change each month) and there was a nice variety of colors included.

Overall, I thought the presentation was fairly good. I could make a few suggestions – perhaps a cardboard insert in the box with slots for the ink samples and a slot for the pen would make sense and keep everything a bit better organized. Although I love that they included a card with the ink swatches and names (and each sample tube was numbered) I think labeling the tubes themselves, even with printable Avery labels, would help ink collectors identify them in the future.

Finally, I’m left to decide whether I think monthly fountain pen subscription boxes are a good idea. The answer is: it depends. I think a subscription box is a fabulous gift for someone who has expressed interest in fountain pens, or who is new to collecting and eager to try a wider array of inks and pens. However, I do think that after the first  (or second? third?) box the journey becomes a bit more personal and enthusiasts would likely prefer to pick out their own pens and inks, so I’m not sure that a subscription model is sustainable. If the goal is to get new users or dabblers more interested in fountain pens and more knowledgeable about Truphae through the box, and then draw them into the shop to select their next pens and inks, then I think that’s more of a winning model.

What do you think?

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided to us free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Giveaway Winner: Kaweco Sport Coral (Fontoplumo Exclusive)

Giveaway Winner: Kaweco Sport Coral (Fontoplumo Exclusive)

Thanks to the power of Random Number Generator, we have a winner in our Fontoplumo-Exclusive Kaweco Sport Coral giveaway.

Kaweco Sport Coral winner

I think the Coral will look stunning with the Red Fox and Sunrise! Keep it on the sunny side, Pam. I’ve contacted you by email to get your shipping info.

Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway. Stayed tuned for the next giveaway coming soon.

Fountain Pen Review: Parker Jotter Fountain Pen

Fountain Pen Review: Parker Jotter Fountain Pen

The Parker Jotter fountain pen has been available for at least a year. However, it has not gotten a lot of notice. In theory, Parker took the classic good looks of their iconic Jotter ballpoint pen and turned it in to a fountain pen. This is not unlike what Caran d’Ache did with the 849 as well. Both companies position these pens in an entry level price point as well, relatively speaking.

Parker Jotter London Fountain Pen

Parker Jotter London Fountain Pen

The Jotter Fountain Pen I purchased is the Stainless Steel with gold accents ($24). It arrived in retail packaging (clear plastic on the front and a hanging loop at the top) so it appears that the Jotter fountain pen was intended for stores like Staples and Office Depot.

Parker Jotter London Fountain Pen

The pen ships with one blue cartridge. Parker pens take proprietary cartridges/converters so a converter ($12) will need to be purchased separately to be able to expand one’s ink options.

It’s ironic that Parker’s ballpoint refill is considered the industry standard for fountain pen refills but their cartridges and converters are proprietary. How come Parker’s fountain pen ink cartridges didn’t become the industry standard?

Parker Jotter London Fountain Pen

Overall, the Jotter in Stainless Steel looks really good when capped. The line is sleek and understated.

Parker Jotter London Fountain Pen

When opened though, I feel like the grip section and the collar that connects the nib feels a little less thought through. There is a noticeable edge where the grip section connects to the body.

Though it’s hard to tell in a photo, the Parker Jotter fountain pen seems a bit wider. It could just be the difference between the grip section on the fountain pen versus the tapered end on the ballpoint.

The Jotter Fountain Pen is 5 1/16″ long capped, 4 5/8″ uncapped and 5 7/16″ posted. It weighs only 16gms capped (with cartridge) and just 10gms uncapped. It’s a very lightweight pen.

pen weight comparison chart

Parker Jotter London Fountain Pen

The nib shape on the Parker Jotter is very straight as it fits into the collar. Other nibs tend to taper in slightly. I think this design is an effort to make the pen feel more modern. This more angular look reminds me a bit of the Caran d’Ache 849 fountain pen. I don’t hate it but at the same time it’s also a little odd. The nib is etched with the brand name and three chevrons. There is an etched square on the nib where a breather hole would normally be. Again, it’s an odd design decision but not unpleasant. And the absence of the breather hole doesn’t seem to affect the pen’s performance.

Parker Jotter FP

Parker Jotter FP writing sample

In writing, I found the medium nib very smooth but a bit too wide for my microscopic handwriting. The centers of some of my letters fill in which is not ideal for legibility. I really wish Parker would offer some of these entry level pens with some nib options!

So, if I were to compile a plus and minus list for this pen, here’s what it would look like:


  • snap cap
  • postable
  • light
  • budget-friendly


  • noticeable step between body and grip section
  • only available with medium nib
  • proprietary cartridge/converter

I really love snap cap fountain pens. For the sort of everyday writing I do, it makes a pen easy to grab, jot and recap. The Jotter lives up to its name in regards to easy of use. The medium nib is the only real drawback I have with this pen.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by Goldspot for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Kuretake Zig 2 Way Glue Pens

Review: Kuretake Zig 2 Way Glue Pens

Review by Tina Koyama

If I have a serious gluing need, such as making a collage, I pull out a gallon jug of acrylic medium. But for casual gluing needs, I want something quick, easy and, above all, not messy. I gave up on glue sticks because no matter how neatly I tried to apply them, I ended up with strings or globs of goo on my hands and on the paper where the glue didn’t belong. I guess it’s difficult for me to aim glue sticks accurately. My go-to for a few years has been the Tombow Mono Adhesive Tape Runner, which I still like, but sometimes I run it across a glossy or other odd paper surface, and the tape won’t adhere to it. It’s a bit finicky that way.

Zig Glue Pen Both TipsFilled with Glue

The Kuretake Zig 2 Way Glue Pens were new to me, so I thought I’d give a couple a try – the chisel point ($3) and the fine point ($3.20).

When you first open a new glue pen, the application tip is white. Before first use, it must be primed the way you would a paint pen: Pump the tip rapidly up and down on scrap paper. Soon the pale blue glue flows to the tip.

Zig Glue Pen Tip Filling with Glue


Zig Glue Pen Tip Still White

What makes the glue pens “2 way”? The “dual action” enables both a permanent and a temporary bond. I like the versatility of that – two types of gluing in one product.

Zig Glue Pen Label

First I tried the permanent bond: Apply the glue and adhere it while the glue still appears blue. You have to be quick – it starts changing from blue to transparent immediately. I waited a few minutes, then tried to pull the papers apart. One paper tore before they would separate, so the bonding is reasonably strong.

Zig Glue Pen Permanent Bond

Then I tried the temporary bond: This time, I waited until the glue turned transparent before adhering the papers, which took only seconds. Again, I waited a few minutes after adhering. The papers pulled apart easily like Post-it notes, leaving a slightly tacky residue. The stickier side could be reapplied, again like a Post-it.

Zig Glue Pen Temporary Adhesive

Finally I tried a real-world gluing task of the type I commonly have: attaching ephemera to a Leuchtturm 1917 journal page. In this case, it was our newspaper’s five-day weather report yet again forecasting variations of rain (ranging from “showers likely” to “scattered rain”) on all five days as it has for several weeks now (it’s getting tiresome even for this Seattle native). Normally I would apply glue to the ephemera, not the journal page, but the glue was not showing up well enough to photograph on the newspaper, so I tried applying it to the journal page instead. I’m sorry that my photo below doesn’t show the glue as blue. It’s very pale blue and changes rapidly to colorless; by the time I picked up my phone for the photo, most had already gone clear.

Glue applied to paper

After waiting a few minutes, I tried to pull the newspaper clipping off the page. Where the glue had been freshly applied, the bond was firm, but in areas where the glue had been exposed for several seconds, the paper peeled off easily – the temporary bonding stage. If you intend a permanent bond, it’s critical that you adhere the papers immediately – even a few seconds is too long to wait.

Gluing complete

I like the neatness and easily directed points on both glue pens. However, the speed at which I must get the adhesion completed is a bit daunting. For a permanent bond, I recommend these glue pens for very small snippets of paper only. If you need to glue something large, one end of the piece will be past the permanent bonding stage before you’ve applied glue to the opposite end. It’s ideal, though, if you want to make your own Post-it notes!

(Editor’s Note: We use these Zig Glue pens at work all the time but we mostly use them for adhering gems, ribbon and other ephemera rather than paper-to-paper gluing.)

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

Fountain Pen Review: Opus 88 Bela

Fountain Pen Review: Opus 88 Bela

By Jessica Coles

I would like to introduce a pen that I haven’t seen reviewed very often: the Opus 88 Bela. A big thank you to Goldspot Pens for letting me experience the Bela. I have enjoyed Opus 88 pens (and nibs!) in the past, but this one is slightly different. It is a CHONKER. I thought this would be tough to use for me (I have small hands) but I found it wasn’t tough at all. I loved the chunkiness of this one!

The Opus 88 Bela pen comes packages quite securely in a lovely box with a magnetic closure and includes a glass eyedropper to help with filling the pen. The eyedropper is missing from this photo.

Lying alone in its box, the Bela looks like a pen of normal size. Nope. The pen to the right of the Bella is the Pilot 743 (identical to the Pilot 823 except for the filling system). Previously, the Opus 88 demonstrator to the left of the Bela was my pen with the largest diameter (just under 15 mm or about .6 inches). The Bela has a diameter just shy of 20 mm or .78 inches. The first time I picked up the Bela, I was reminded of the chunky crayons in preschool – the ones you had to hold in your whole fist to use.

Surprisingly, this only added to my enjoyment of the Bela; the diameter of this pen helped during long writing sessions – my hand did not cramp up at all.

Let me show you a bit more about the Bela. The pen is available in two very attractive swirl patterned colors – red or blue. I chose the blue version that has swirls of yellow, green, and black in the material. The finial, end cap, and clip are a shiny black. The clip is very tight – I prefer this, but in certain pen cases, this can be a bit distracting.

The colorful portion of this pen is not translucent, but just above the pen section is a clear ink window for seeing both the color and the level of your ink. I will not be needing to check the ink level very soon, however. The Bela is able to hold almost 3.5mL of ink. That’s right. You can fill this pen up with more ink than most ink sample sizes.

One concern I had when I first started using the Bela – would it fit into any of my pen cases? Since I had recently acquired a Franklin-Christoph 6 pen case, that was my first attempt.

The fit here is snug, but no force was used to get this to happen.

Now let’s go on to the nib of the Bela; the Bela comes with a #6 stainless steel Bock nib branded Opus 88. I have never had a problem with the nibs from Opus 88  – they are smooth out of the box and write beeautifully.

My favorite feature of all Opus 88 pens is the filling system. These pens use an eyedropper filling system – the nib and section are unscrewed and the ink is dropped into the barrel of the pen using… an eyedropper, hence the name. The instructions included with the pen are easy to follow.

After the pen is full (with 3.5mL of ink!), the user vents the pen by unscrewing the back end just a bit. This retracts the rod and sealing mechanism in the center of the pen and allows the ink to flow into the pen section and feed. The pen can be left this way or the user can close the end during or after the writing session. If the pen is used while it is vented, it will write until the ink in the feed and section are used up. The process can be repeated.

A huge advantage of this filling system is this rod and sealing mechanism. When the pen is sealed, no ink will come out except the small amount in the feed and section. That means that 3.5 mL of ink won’t leak during plane trips, rough movements, changes in altitude. The ink is also less likely to evaporate in the pen since the seal keeps the ink away from most exposure to air.

I am absolutely thrilled with the Opus 88 Bela. During long note-writing sessions, I am thankful for it as well, both for the non-cramping hand and for the HUGE amount of ink stored inside. Goldspot has it at $97.95 – a great price for a Chonker pen.

DISCLAIMER: The Opus 88 Bela included in this review was provided to us by Goldspot for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.