Fountain Pen Review: Faber-Castell Grip 2011 EF in Silver

Fountain Pen Review: Faber-Castell Grip 2011 EF in Silver

There are not a lot of new, entry-level pens appearing on the market so its always worth taking a good look. The Faber-Castell Grip 2011 ($20) is definitely a contender. Especially in light of recent price increase on the Pilot Metropolitan (now MSRP $29.99, street price $23.99), there is definitely room for a new entry-level fountain pen.

Enter: the Grip 2011.

Faber-Castell took design cues from their Grip pencil, which has always been one of my favorite pencils. The pen shares the same soft, triangular shape and rubberized dots as the pencil, just a wider version.

Faber-Castell Gripp 2011 Fountain Pen

Faber-Castell Gripp 2011 Fountain Pen cap detail

On the end of the cap, is a raised version of the jousting horses. Oh, did I mention it’s a snap cap?

Faber-Castell Gripp 2011 Fountain Pen clip

Printed on the side of the cap is the Faber-Castell logo and the clip is slim and elegant. Unlike other, lower priced Faber-Castell pens, the cap is a uniform cylinder shape which I really prefer aesthetically.

Faber-Castell Gripp 2011 Fountain Pen nib

The nib is engraved with dots and Faber-Castell’s signature jousting horses. While I don’t know if the nib is custom made by Faber-Castell or if its a stock nib engraved for Faber-Castell but its good looking and smooth.

Faber-Castell Gripp 2011 Fountain Pen in profile

The grip section is a subtly molded grip section. Imagine if someone rubbed down the hard edges of a Lamy Safari. As a left-handed writer, I find the Grip 2011 far easier to use and more comfortable than the stricter, sharper edges of the Safari.

Faber-Castell Gripp 2011 Fountain Pen size comparison

So, how does it stack up against other entry level pens? From left to right: a Kaweco Sport, TWSBI Eco, Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari, Kaweco Perkeo and the Faber-Castell Grip 2011  — all capped. The Metro, the Safari, the Perkeo and the Grip 2011 all have snap caps.

Faber-Castell Gripp 2011 Fountain Pen size comparison posted

The same pens shown in the previous photo, posted. The only pen in this price range that’s metal is the Metropolitan. The Perkeo and the Grip 2011 are the widest and both take standard European cartridges or converters. Generally speaking, I don’t post my pens except for pocket pens like the Kaweco Sport.

pen weight comparison chart

The Grip 2011 is a light pen weighing 15gms capped or or posted and  10gms uncapped. The Safari is a little bit heavier. The Perkeo is probably very close in weight.

Faber-Castell Gripp 2011 Fountain Pen writing sample

The extra fine nib, being a European EF, is not super fine but I still find it really pleasurable to write with. I’ve been using this pen for several months and I really like it. I love that it is easy to use, takes standard European and long cartridges as well as a standard converter. It’s become my office pen, easy to cap and uncap throughout the day and I am using up that stash of mystery cartridges I’ve had for years.

If you need a quick, easy-to-use fountain pen for yourself or you’re trying to convert a friend to the world of fountain pens, I think the Faber-Castell Grip 2011 is a great option. It’s available in a variety of other colors and nib widths so there’s something for everyone.


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

Ink Review: Sailor Studio 162

Ink Review: Sailor Studio 162

By Jessica Coles

Sailor Studio inks. 100 inks that have amazing characteristics including heavy sheening inks, pastel colors, even inks that seem to be several colors and no specific color at the same time.  Today, we are looking at Sailor Studio 162.

According to the numbering scheme used by Sailor, we can tell that this will be the lightest color in this color group (the color group 62). I previously reviewed Sailor Studio 462 which is in the same color group.

A quick first glance at Sailor Studio 162 shows an overall dusky green ink.  But plenty of pinkish-purple shows through along with grey.

In writing, the color shows more as a light bluish green.  With my medium nib (Lamy Safari pen), there was also plenty of shading.

The ink could almost be mistaken for a grey that leaned towards blue, at times.

The paper used here is cream colored.  It seems to be a perfect pairing with Sailor Studio 162, though!

Here is a comparison of Sailor Studio 162 (on the left) and Sailor Studio 462 (on the right) to show how close the two colors are.  462 has fewer distinguishable colors – the lighter colors seem to be hidden when the first number is greater than 3.

Again, another comparison with Sailor Studio 462, this time in studio lighting and on white Col-o-Dex cards. The lighter 162 does show more of the subtle colors.

As for comparisons – this part is always difficult with Sailor Studio inks.  I’ve laid out both green and purplish-grey inks for the lineup.  I think it helps to show the subtle colors.

Kobe #64 is a somewhat close match to Sailor Studio 162, however, once again the Sailor Studio ink shows a depth and color variation that I have yet to find in other inks.

Again, the only place I have been able to purchase Sailor Studio inks in the United States is one eBay seller, linked below.  Please let me know if you find other sellers!  Even with the high price of these inks, I believe it’s worth the expense to add one or two to your collection.

Disclaimer: All items in this review were purchased by me.  For more information, visit our About page.

Link Love: On the Road Again!

Link Love: On the Road Again!

Tomorrow, Laura and I are packing up and driving south to Little Rock for the Arkansas Pen Show. We hope that if you’re within shouting distance, we’ll see you there this weekend. If not, you can follow along with our adventures on Instagram and we’ll post a recap here next week.

Lots of paper-related links this week and recaps from Baltimore and London Pen Shows. Most importantly though, Tools and Toys reviews the best coffeemaker ever built. It’s Desk-tested. Desk-approved.

Late-Breaking News!

Laura discovered yesterday that F+W Media, publisher of dozens of publications including HOW, Print, Interweave Knits, Writer’s Digest and The Artist’s Magazine, filed for bankruptcy. Since many readers here are of a creative pursuit, you may read or have read one of their many publications. Here are a couple links to articles regarding the bankruptcy thus far.

While many publishing companies have continued to tighten their belts, moving to online only or shuttering their business altogether, I believe that niche publications still have a place in the market. I also believe that magazines, in general, are having a resurgence. Publications are curated, collected and, like many of the things we enjoy, offer an analog experience. They provide a chance to read quietly. Even publications full of ads, don’t interrupt your reading experience with a pop-up ad requiring one to click a check box to close it. Ads within a magazine are often curated to the audience of a publication as well. Reading an outdoor magazine? Chance are, the ads are for camping gear, REI and the like.

Magazines also provide time capsules. While we might look back on a publication from five years ago and roll our eyes at the fashion, the font choices or some other aspect of the magazine. When we see a magazine from 50 years ago, there is a fascination with the whole world embodied in the magazine, be it a fishing publication or a knitting one.

Two aspects of a publication (the aesthetic and the individual unit) present the reader with a unique experience in content and context. The design elements like layout, type design, and photography can be experienced in a more comprehensive way, throughout the publication, from masthead to page number. The publication can also be curated editorially from cover to cover in a way that may not be as meaningful when scrolling through a sea of text online.

This complete experience is what continues to make magazines engrossing and artifacts  of our world.



Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

Pen Shows:

Ink Review: Diamine 150th Anniversary, Blue Velvet

Review by Laura Cameron

I recently went on a bit of an ink buying spree. Rather than grab the newest, hottest colors, I went back and added a few inks I missed along the way. The first of those is Diamine 150th Blue Velvet (40mL for $16.00).

Blue Velvet is a beautifully rich cornflower blue.

It is bright, clear blue and has so many yummy shades. It has the intensity that I’ve come to admire in many of the Robert Oster blues, and yet this one doesn’t lean teal at all. Just rich, cobalt blue.

As you can see the ink shades beautifully, and in super heavy applications had something of a sheen. I can’t even decide exactly what the sheen is – maybe a black with a tinge of yellow or red? In person it’s super, super dark.

Ok they were blue suede shoes, not blue velvet, so I took some license here, but I think it works! (please forgive the lack of artistic skill.)

Honestly, I had a hard time coming up with a comparison to this blue in my stash of swatches. Almost everything I brought out wasn’t the right shade, even if it matched in intensity. Pilot Iroshizuku Ajisai is sort of close to the lighter shades of Blue Velvet, but it’s still a bit too much on the periwinkle side. Robert Oster Soda Pop Blue was too turquoise, and Deep Sea was too teal. Faber Castell makes a Cobalt Blue but it is nowhere near as brilliant as Blue Velvet and even Pelikan Edelstein looks muted in comparison.

Overall I’m thrilled with this one because it’s not a shade I currently have. My only problem is deciding which pen to fill up first!

DISCLAIMER: Some of 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.

Fountain Pen Review: Esterbrook Phaeton

Fountain Pen Review: Esterbrook Phaeton

The second release from the new, improved relaunch of Esterbrook is the Phaeton 300R (MSRP $85, street price $68). While the Estie was designed to be a modern fountain pen that could also use the original Esterbrook screw-in nib units, the Phaeton is a retro-styled fountain pen with a semi-hooded nib reminiscent of mid-century pen design.

Esterbrook Phaeton in box

The Phaeton 300R ships in the same box as the Estie. It’s a red textural fabric box, like burlap, with white foil stamped logo on the top. It’s neither overly flashy nor overly cheap which is appropriate for a pen at this price point.

The Phaeton 300R is available in several acrylic colors: red, blue, green and black with a silver cap and gold plated clip and nib. It ships with a plunger-style converter.

Esterbrook Phaeton

Esterbrook Phaeton nib

The nib is only available in a medium width presently but its a presently crisp medium.

pen weight comparison chart

The Phaeton weighs 18gms capped or posted and a mere 8gms unposted. It’s a small pen overall measuring just 5.5″ (14cm) capped, 4.875″ (12.5cm) uncapped and 6″ (15.3cm) posted. It takes its dimensions from vintage pens so it might not work for everyone. It does post though.

Esterbrook Phaeton writing sample

In writing, I wasn’t sure I was going to like the Phaeton because I don’t usually write with medium nib pens but the Phaeton has a crisp, almost italic-like grind on the nib making it a pleasant writing experience. I find most medium nib pens to be rather flat and round creating a rather uninspired writing experience — like writing with a ballpoint pen. So, the more crisp, flat medium angle on this nib (and it could just be the nib I received) is a pleasant surprise.

Overall, the pen speaks to me aesthetically. I missed my chance to get one of the Aurora Duo Cart pens last year which fulfilled a similar vintage vibe and the Esterbrook Phaeton is at a much better price point.

I do hope that other nib sizes will be offered at some point but the medium nib is actually quite appealing.


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

Brush Pen Review: Pentel Ultra Fine Artist Brush Sign Pen

Review by Tina Koyama

I’ve seen a few brush pens in my day, and most with bristles have the same average-size tip. Pentel’s Ultra Fine Artist Brush Sign Pen ($3.65) is a rare exception. (I chose black to test, but it comes in 12 colors.) On the outside, it has a basic plastic body typical of disposable brush pens.

1 - Pentel UF artist brush pen

Remove the cap, however, and the “ultra fine” part becomes obvious. If you were tasked with the proverbial job of painting the eyelashes of angels, this pen would get the job done. It has the finest brush tip of any brush pen I’ve used.

2 - close-up of brush tip

For comparison, the Pentel ultra fine is shown (on the right) next to the Kuretake No. 13 Fountain Brush Pen (left) and the Pentel Kirari Pocket Brush Pen (center) – two of my favorites when I want a brush pen with bristles. 

3 - brush tip comparison - Kuretake, Pentel Pocket brush, UF Pentel

In my sketch and writing samples, I was able to get a wide range of thick and thin lines. I especially like the lovely dry-brush effect that’s possible when held at its broadest angle. (Alas, I’m not a calligrapher, but if I were, I would put that dry brush to work.) The tip springs back nicely and retains its fine point.

4 - page spread of sample sketch and writing

According to JetPens’ specs, the pen contains water-soluble, dye-based ink, so I knew it wouldn’t be waterproof, but I gave it a quick swipe of water anyway. I like the cool gray hue that results when washed. (Samples done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook, which is sized for light washes.)

5 - water-soluble test in S&B Alpha

Final Impressions

I love this brush pen! The wide range of marks it can make from ultra fine to wide makes it fully versatile for writing, sketching and calligraphy. My only wish is that Pentel would come out with an ultra fine artist brush sign pen containing black waterproof ink, too.

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.

Ink Review: Sailor Studio 273

Ink Review: Sailor Studio 273

By Jessica Coles 

I fell in love with Sailor Studio 273 as soon as I saw a photo of the ink on two different types of paper – the ink looked like an entirely different color when only the paper was changed.

This is another ink that I have placed in my “Inks that have really weird properties” category; a category that houses other inks I find unusual or amazing.  Other inks include Robert Oster Avocado, Sailor 123, and Montblanc Swan Illusion as well.

The Sailor Studio inks use a numbering system to differentiate the inks – a numbering system that also gives clues to the color of the ink.  The first number (here, 2) is used to indicate the shade of the ink, although saturation is indicated to some extent as well. 1 is the lightest and 0 the darkest.

The last two numbers (here 7 and 3) can be used to find the family of the ink – inks that have nearly the same color mixtures.  Ink 373 looks like it may be close to Montblanc Swan Illusion which made me even more excited to try 273 – hopefully, I could find another ink that was slightly different than Swan but also contained the same haunting color mixture.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Sailor Studio 273 is a strange mixture of brown, dusky pink and what looks like an orangish yellow.

I have tried to show inks that look similar here, but as you can see, nothing is quite there.  I didn’t include Swan Illusion since it contains more red undertones.

The photo above shows 273 on Tomoe cream paper.  With the top swab of ink, I smeared it while it was still wet to show how the ink layers upon itself.

One note – there is no sparkle in this ink.  There was a tiny bit of sparkle left in the nib of this pen from a previous fill.

As for other qualities in the ink, it is absolutely not water resistant and the flow is medium.  The price is high, however, coming in at $21.49 for only 20mL from this eBay seller.  So far, no one in the US has started to carry this ink, but I’m hoping someone will!

Disclaimer: All items in this review were purchased by me.  For more information, visit our About page.