Montblanc The Beatles Psychedelic Purple Review

A few years ago I used to be really on the FOMO limited edition fountain pen ink band wagon, but over the last two years my ink purchases have petered out to nothing. At some point I realized that any limited edition ink that I buy is bound to be pretty damn close to an ink that I already own, and a person can only have too many inks (IMHO). How many inks can you use at one given time anyway?

The precious few new bottles of ink that I have have all been given to me as part of large (vintage) fountain pen purchases, and so I haven’t felt comfortable reviewing them. You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, do you? Then again, the gift was from the store, not the ink maker, so here we are.

The Montblanc Beatles Psychedelic Purple limited edition ink comes in a very groovy box, that is very well designed. Normally I couldn’t care less about ink packaging (excepts as it pertains to price — looking at you Pilot Iroshizuku. You started the trend and you know it), but someone really put some thought in this.

The little ribbon tab helps open the box easily

Look at that design:

I’ve never seen an ink bottle’s cap protected before, but then again this is Montblanc:

The bottle itself is pretty conservatively designed, but classically pretty:

The ink itself is a rich, saturated purple with a good amount of shading (despite being pretty dark), and a very slow drying time. It’s one of the few cases where the actual ink matches the colour of the packaging. There’s some sheen to the ink, but I’ve seen it sheen only on Tomoe River Paper, and it’s super hard to photograph.

I love this ink’s shade of purple (it’s slightly more to the red side of purple than the blue), but this ink was a hot mess in terms of behaviour on various papers. This ink is usable only on Rhodia/Clairfontaine and Tomoe River Paper, it becomes a bleeding, spreading monster on everything else. It also takes a really long time to dry (not surprising, as it’s a very saturated ink), which means that it’s going to be a no-no for left handed users and you really have to take care where you put your hand when you write with the stuff.

And that’s the thing. This is an expensive, not readily available ink that is finicky and temperamental in a hue that’s not so rare as to be unobtainable. Why spend good money and time buying it if you can probably get a spot on match from Diamine? Montblanc Psychedelic Purple cost about $40 when it came out and $80 now for a 50ml bottle. Diamine Majestic Purple costs $15 for an 80ml bottle. You do the math.

If you enjoy hunting for limited edition inks as part of the hobby, that’s fine. Just don’t get swept away by the marketing and the hype. Remember: there’s a very good chance that that expensive limited edition ink is not very different from the ones that you already have and don’t use, or that you can get a similar hue for less than half the price from Diamine.

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Montblanc The Beatles Psychedelic Purple Review

Kaweco Liliput Brass Fountain Pen Review

A certain famous young actress, whose work I love, was recently photographed while pensively holding the copper version of this fountain pen, and this summarises this pen perfectly: it’s very, very photogenic.

I got this pen at a close out sale in a local art supply store, and the only reason I was tempted to buy it was because it was so shiny and pretty and at bargain price. Even so, I should have left it to languish unloved at that store’s counter. This is not a good pen. It’s not even a usable pen. It’s a lovely prop.

As its name suggests, this pen is tiny. You can’t use it unposted, and even posted it’s far from comfortable to use. I have tiny hands and even for me the Kaweco Liliput, posted, is just a hair breadth above the Steinbeck stage.

How does the pen write? Fine, as long as it writes. This is a fine nibbed pen and it writes like a Japanese fine nib (despite being made in Germany), if the Japanese fine nib that you have in mind has serious flow issues. The nib constantly dries up. I used a Diamine blue black cartridge in it (there’s no really viable converter option for this pen), a good, middle of the road ink, and the Liliput behaved as if I was using the driest ink ever and had left it uncapped for at least 10 minutes before I started writing. I wouldn’t even call it a writing experience, as so little writing went on. Start, stop, shake. Start, stop, shake. Nothing but shaking would get it writing again for another letter or two.

The pen is already starting to show some patina, which is excellent (you buy a brass pen for the patina potential after all). This means that it will only look better with time. If you’re a petite actress trying to look pensive and sophisticated for a photo op, this is wonderful news for you — the Kaweco Liliput Brad’s is the perfect pen for you. Everyone else: spend your money elsewhere.

Kaweco Liliput Brass Fountain Pen Review

Paper for Fountain Pens Notebook Review

Back in the (not so good) old days, Tomoe River Paper was an exotic kind of paper available only in bulk order from Japan, or through various indie creators that advertised mostly on the Fountain Pen Network. The magical paper that made all your inks shine (not literally, this was in the pre-sparkle days of ink, when shading is all we dared dream of in an ink) was very hard to obtain, and very expensive.

It was at that time, in 2013, when I was looking for reasonable priced Tomoe River Paper notebooks that could be shipped to Tel Aviv, that I ran into Paper For Fountain Pens, through the Fountain Pen Network. Since I just received my latest three-pack of notebooks from Jay at PaperForFountainPens.com, I decided that now would be as good a time as any for a review.

The notebooks that I ordered are the larger, 374 pages (187 sheets), ones, which are available only around this time of year. The regular notebooks have 320 pages, but are otherwise identical. Jay uses 52 gsm Tomoe River Paper for the notebooks, which are 4 3/4 x 8 3/8 inch page size; 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 inch cover size.

The notebooks used to be shipped with a paper cover, now they arrived vacuum packed as well, to protect them from the elements, and in a heavy duty box that prevents them from getting damaged by the postal services of the world.

Vacuumed packaging.
Paper wrapper.

Tomoe River Paper is much easier to find now and these notebooks aren’t cheap, as you are paying for the binding. The covers are very durable, made from a material that (with the binding) makes the whole notebook look and feel like a vintage hardcover book. It has that solid, over-engineered feel to it, and is very pleasant to use and hold.

The notebook isn’t inconveniently thick, even with the larger page count.

There are no frills to this notebook, just blank end papers, no elastic closure or bookmark, nothing but the paper and the covers. The pages lie flat, and the binding is extremely durable (I page a lot, a lot in my Paper for Fountain Pens notebook and not a page has wavered in my years of using it).

The front endpaper 

I’ve used the slimmer version of this notebook as a research notebook for my novel and it has held up well through years of use. I do, however, only keep it on my desk. Travelling with such fragile paper in a notebook with no elastic closure is a recipe for disaster, so if you do intent to use one of these beauties as your everyday carry notebook or journal, I highly recommend placing it in some kind of protective cover that you can zip up.

The back endpaper

This notebook is slightly thicker than the Baron Fig Confidant and Moleskine large notebook, is about as wide as the Moleskine, but a tad taller.

Paper for Fountain Pens above a Moleskine Large notebook and a Baron Fig Confidant

You can see the difference in sizes with the notebooks stacked up. The Paper for Fountain Pens notebooks have thicker and heavier covers than the Moleskine and Baron Fig ones, but the lightweight paper in them keeps them from being overly heavy to carry around.

Paper for Fountain Pens above a Moleskine Large notebook and a Baron Fig Confidant

All in all I recommend these notebooks, with one caveat: they may intimidate you to a point where you won’t use them. There’s something about their book-like format that makes you feel that you can only write the next Booker prize winning novel in them. Notebooks should be used and not stacked and stared at, so if this one will scare you off, pick a more humble notebook instead. Otherwise, buy a three-pack of these — it’ll come out cheaper (particularly with shipping), and there’s an excellent chance that they’ll become your new favourite.

Paper for Fountain Pens Notebook Review

My Analogue Writing Tools

I wrote the first few chapters of my first novel longhand, with fountain pen on loose sheets of A4 tomoe river paper. As I realized that I would have to type everything into Scrivener before I could even start editing, the lazy programmer within me balked. It was fine doing this with quick drafts, but writing an entire novel longhand was not for me.

I still use pen, pencil and paper a lot in my writing though. I use a fountain pen (anything that doesn’t have a flex or novelty nib will do — from extra-fine to 1.1mm stubs) and loose sheets of A4 and A5 tomoe river paper to work on my outlines, for quick drafts, to test plot options out, or when I’m really, really stuck in my writing. A Field Notes Byline is constantly under my keyboard, horizontally. Yes, I know that the lines don’t go that way, but I ignore them. The form factor is perfect for that, and the ruling is pale enough for me to easily ignore it. I use a Blackwing 16.2 or 24 with it, to quickly capture any ideas that may come up during my writing, to remind myself where I was going with an idea or what I need to fix a previous place, to brainstorm names, etc. It serves as a scratch pad that allows me to maintain my writing flow and still remember things along the way.

Messy, messy handwriting, because getting things down on paper is more important to me then keeping them pretty. 

So, even if you do all your writing using Ulysses or Scrivener (hopefully not Word), I recommend that you incorporate some analogue tools in your process. You’re bound to find them useful, particularly when you’re stuck or you’ve dug yourself into a hole.

My Analogue Writing Tools

TWSBI GO and J Herbin Caroube de Chypre Ink Review

I’ve tried shimmering fountain pen inks (inks with little sparkly bits in them) only once before, when J Herbin first started producing them, and they ruined a Lamy Safari pen and converter with their non-removable sparkle. Over time more and more reviews came out lauding these pretty, shiny inks and saying that they’re completely fountain pen friendly nowadays, yet I kept my distance. No amount of glitter was worth another ruined pen, after all.

Enter the TWSBI GO, which is a a TWSBI nib connected to a toy pen that is so cheap that it practically has “Bay State Blue ready” written on it (I still don’t recommend going anywhere near the stainiest of stainy inks, no matter how gorgeous it is).

The packaging is bewilderingly good for such a cheap fountain pen. A cardboard sleeve over a plastic box that puts the cardboard Lamy Safari packaging (and price point) to shame.

Cardboard sleeve with TWSBI logo
Solid plastic box for the pen. I’m not a packaging person, but this is disproportionally good for the price.

Then you open the box, and laugh. The pen looks and feels like a child’s toy, with its cheap feeling plastic, its light weight and ridiculous spring filling mechanism. It takes the ugly duckling bit a step beyond what even other TWSBI functional but ugly pens, like the ECO, have.

Ugly.

But then you start to write with it, and the silly little body has good ink capacity, is easy to fill, and most importantly, it has a TWSBI nib. TWSBI nibs are phenomenally good for the price, and they come in 1.1 stub sizes, which are super fun to use.

Here’s a writing sample with a TWSBI GO 1.1 stub, which I did late at night when I was pretty tired, and so I spelled TWSBI phonetically, so whoopsie.

The ink is J Herbin’s Caroube de Chypre, which I had bought but not yet used. It’s a light, coffee brown ink with a medium amount of shading and some gold sparkle that is just-impossible-to-photograph-unless-you-pour-half-a-bottle-of-the-stuff-on-the-page-so-you’re-going-to-have-to-trust-me-on-this-it-is-pretty.

Writing sample.

Can you get away with using this ink in a work setting? I believe you can, since the colour itself is pretty tame and the sparkle isn’t in your face, but just glints in the light in certain angles.

img_5626.jpg
This photographed darker than it appears in reality, but is shows some of the depth of shading that you can expect to see with this ink.
img_5627.jpg
Ugly pen, ugly handwriting, pretty ink.
TWSBI logo on the cap.
The nib, which is the main reason to buy this pen.
Pen grip and pen feed, with ink capacity on display.

The pen itself is a paragon of practicality: super light, super comfortable grip, good ink capacity, excellent nib and feed, easy to use filling mechanism. For less than $20 that’s a tremendous feat on TWSBI’s part and it makes this pen a “no-brainer”. Whether you’re a beginner or a hardened collector, you should have at least one of these in your pen case. It’s a great workhorse, good for experimenting with “dangerous” inks (keep well away from Bay State Blue, yes you, I’m talking to you. I can see what’s in your shopping cart), good as a loaner pen to get more people into the wonderful world of fountain pens, and even good for people experimenting with nib grinds. In the beginner fountain pen category it is uglier than even the platinum preppy, but when it comes to bang for your buck, this pen puts all others to shame.

 

TWSBI GO and J Herbin Caroube de Chypre Ink Review

Kaweco AC Sport Carbon Fountain Pen Review

After reviewing the Moleskine James Bond Carbon it was only natural to review my recently acquired Kaweco AC Sport Carbon fountain pen, so here you have it:

I’m not a huge Kaweco fan, mainly because their practically non existent filling system makes using them something of a pain. Cartridges are sometimes very useful (especially when traveling), but I generally prefer a cartridge based pen to accept converters as well and Kaweco’s Sport converters are a joke. They are difficult to fill and hold less than a drop of ink, and oftentimes come loose, so they’re basically terrible. Kaweco seems to be aware of that because they also make them difficult to obtain. You really have to want the pain to experience it (and believe me, you don’t. Save your money and buy yourself several cups of coffee).

So what possessed me to buy this pen? It’s pretty. There, I said it. That red, that carbon fibre — this pen is basically a Ferrari in pen shape: gorgeous and not very practical.

Look how pretty it is!

The nib is smooth and I was luck enough that it worked well out of the box. I’ve had mixed success with Kaweco nibs, so unless you’re comfortable dealing with baby bottom or flow issues I’d test the pen before buying.

The nib is also pretty handsome, and in this case a Fine, which is closer to a Japanese Medium. I got this pen on a closeout sale in a local art supply store so I lucked out on the nib, since you usually find Medium nibs in non-specialist stores.

I had a bunch of Diamine ink cartridges lying around, so I popped one in and gave it a spin. Here it is with Diamine Woodland Green, a very nice, well behaved ink with some shading:

The pen has a metal body but is not heavy. It can only be used capped (I have tiny hands so trust me when I say this), and despite its pocket size and rugged build, I’d never trust it, or any other fountain pen, in my trouser pocket. That way horror stories of stained pants lie.

Would you enjoy this pen? If you like the aesthetic, and are willing to compromise on ink cartridges, a steel nib and the price, then yes. If you’re looking for a daily workhorse or a practical pen, buy several Pilot Metropolitans, Lamy Safari’s, TWISBI ECOs or even a Lamy AL Star. This is a Ferrari pen — beautiful, frivolous and fun.

Kaweco AC Sport Carbon Fountain Pen Review

Jaffa in the Sunshine

It looks like another year without winter here. I drew this during an Urban Sketchers sketch crawl, but since the sun was right in my face and it was blazing hot (31 degrees centigrade), I didn’t place the shadows properly.

Moleskine large watercolour notebook, Lamy Safari medium, Rohrer and Klingner Emma SketchINK, Schmincke watercolours.

Jaffa in the Sunshine