Tag Archives: pen review

Pilot Custom 823, One of my Favorites

19 Aug

First Impressions

I sought this pen out for its filling system rather than for its looks. Upon first seeing the pen I was struck by its simple elegance. This is a large pen, which really appeals to me.

My first 823 was the Smoke colored 823. I bought it used. The transaction was a bit of a debacle as the seller sold the pen to me with an imperfect nib, and he did not disclose it at the time of sale (big no no). Thankfully, Mike Masuyama was able to fix it for me. So, I have to admit that that experience affected my first impression of the pen.

My Amber 823 was purchased new. It came in a padded presentation box, and a bottle of Pilot Blue ink was included with the pen. The Amber translucent pen is really gorgeous. Pictures do not do the pen justice.


Pens of this shape belong to a class  of pens whose shape draws its inspiration from the first cigar-shaped pen, the Sheaffer’s Balance of the 1930s. This design has persisted for so long because it is not only pleasing to the eye, but it is comfortable in the hand.

These pens come in three colors. Smoke, Amber, and Clear. All three are translucent. The Smoke and Clear 823s were imported into the US in very small numbers. They have since sold out. You can, however, get the Amber 823 at most Pilot retailers. If you want the Clear or the Smoke you have to order them from international dealers.

The nibs are 14k gold and the furniture is gold-plated. I usually hate gold plating, but it goes perfectly with the Amber resin. I just wish there had been a rhodium option for the smoke and clear versions.


This is a large pen at about 1/2 inch wide, 5 5/8 inches capped and 5 1/8 inches uncapped. Posted this pen is 6 3/8 inches. It is very well-balanced whether you write with the cap posted or unposted (I never write with my pens posted.)

In terms of size, this pen can be compared to the Sailor Full Sized 1911, MB 146, Pelikan M800, and the Edison Herald. This is the size pen I prefer.

Like the fountain pens of old, these pens are meant to be used as daily writers. Most of them were are not meant to be on display, and honestly, they aren’t meant for you to change inks constantly (although you certainly can if you want).


This pen comes with Pilot’s largest nib, the #15 nib. It is made of 14k yellow gold. This nib is soft, but not flexie. Impacts to the page feel cushioned. This pen is only available in Fine, Medium, and Broad.

Originally, I chose the Broad nib size. As I mentioned earlier, this nib was adjusted by Mike M. He did a wonderful job on this pen, it is now very smooth with a touch of tooth. It’s perfect for maintaining control of the pen without making the writing experience uncomfortable. The flow is quite consistent and juicy.

My new Amber 823 came with a medium nib. It is a superb nib right out of the box. Just like its big brother, it is super smooth with a little feedback to help keep the nib under control.

I’ve discovered, that I am very quickly becoming a huge fan of Pilot nibs. Really, it is hard to beat a Pilot nib especially one of their gold nibs. While the broad writes like a western medium, the medium nib writes more like a western fine. There is a considerable difference between the two. I love the broad nib most, but sometimes you just need something a little finer. The medium nib serves that purpose quite readily.

I use these pens a lot and for very long writing sessions. They perform admirably. I’d definitely recommend a Pilot Custom 823 to folks who also do a lot of writing. This is a great pen with a great nib!

Filling System

For me, the plunger system is the reason I originally bought this pen. I love integral filling systems, and the plunger system has to be my favorite of them all. This mechanism is very smooth, and you can add some silicone grease to the barrel to ensure it stays that way. This filling system is simplistic and efficient. With the right technique, these pens can hold a lot of ink.

I made a quick video to demonstrate how it works:

As I mentioned in the video, one depression of the filler yields 1.5ml of ink, but if you use the two-step method, you will get 2.2ml of ink, and the pen will  be filled to capacity.

Now, a word about cleaning these pens. I have heard it said that these pens are difficult to clean. The plunger filler takes in and expels a lot of water to get the barrel clean, and the nib and feed pull out so that you can clean out any ink that gets trapped in there. It is also possible to unscrew the section, but I wouldn’t advise it. If you are too rough with it you can crack the barrel at the section threads. The grease used to lubricate the thread will stain with ink. You will not be able to clean it out unless you disassemble the pen (I would not advise this since you may crack the pen). This little bit of grease staining has only been an aesthetic concern for me. It has never interfered with my ability to use different inks in the pens.

Cost and Value

These pens can be quite expensive. The MSRP is about $360. If I’d had to pay full price, I probably would never have owned one. My pen budget very rarely extends that high. Each of these pens was under $200. If you can find one for around that price, then this pen represents a tremendous value for the money. You get a super smooth 14k nib, an exceptional plunger filler system, and a well-crafted high quality pen. Those qualities rarely meet for $200 or less these days (especially with the skyrocketing price of gold and the depreciation of the US Dollar).

**Hint! Pam at Oscar Braun Pens is going out of business. She has the Amber 823 marked down to $199. Supplies are likely limited.**  Sorry guys. She is sold out!

Conclusion,  (10/10, A+!)

It’s not often that I buy two of any one pen. The fact that I have is a testament to how much I love these pens. The Pilot Custom 823 represents my perfect everyday writer. They are substantial pens with a girth of .5 inches or more, they have an integrated filling systems that work exceptionally well, they have gold nibs (my preference), and the nibs are smooth right out of the box. My smoke 823 has been inked with the same ink (Noodler’s Navy) for over a year now, and I use it just about everyday. The Amber 823 is new, but it is settling in as well. I fully expect it to be in permanent rotation just as soon as I find the right ink for it.

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No Affil.

Edison Mina

20 Jul

Up for review today is the Edison Mina in both the standard and extended versions.

First Impressions

This is a truly gorgeous design. My mother was with me when I opened the box and we both oohed and ahhed at the sight of these pens, especially the extended version in the black rose acrylic. This is definitely one of those designs that will turn heads especially if you choose the right material for the job.


Top to bottom: Edison Mina extended, Glenmont, and Mina standard

The regular Mina was sent to me in black acrylic. The black material shows off the design of the pen, but it doesn’t pop. The extended Mina came to me in the Black Rose acrylic. This material is just about perfect. The subdued swirl sets off the subtle curve of these pens, the the material does not overpower the design.


The design of this pen is quite wonderful if subtle. There is a subtle flare at either end that makes the pen un-postable. At the same time, that flare makes for a very well-balances comfortable feel in hand. Despite the extra material at the back, this pen is not back heavy. Both the extended and regular Mina feel comfortable to me, but the extended is the more comfortable of the two. I do have largish hands for a woman, so that probably explains it.

Although this pen is being marketed as a ladies pen for someone who likes slimmer sections, the overall feel of the pen is similar to that of other Brian Gray pens. It feels substantial in the hand. The slimness of the pen is only evident in the section design, which feels significantly less girth-y than my Edison Glenmont.

As mentioned above, you cannot post the cap. This model is also clipless. The flare design does make this pen somewhat more prone to rolling. You’ll want to be careful when setting the pen down. Brian does offer a pen rest (purchased separately) to help guard against accidents.

These are the dimension for the two pens from Brian’s website:

Standard     Extended

Weight w/ Cap           20 grams     23 grams
Weight w/o Cap          14 grams     16 grams
Diameter at thickest         .596″     .596″
Diameter at thinnest        .520″     .520″
Length Capped                 5 1/4″     6″
Length Uncapped            4 3/4″     5 1/4″

Top to Bottom: Edison Glenmont, Mina extended, Lamy Vista, Mina Standard, and Pilot Prera


The nib for this model is different from the others Brian offers. They are a smaller size. Whereas his other pens are #6 sized nibs, the Mina pens have #5 sized nibs. This is part of what allows Brian to slim down the section.

The nibs are available in 18k gold or steel. The 18k nibs come in standard sizes of Fine, Medium, and Broad. The Steel nibs come in the same standard sizes as well as stub italic sizes of 1.1mm, 1.5mm, 1.9mm and 2.3mm. As always, Brian will make custom nibs for an additional fee.

One of my pens came with an 18k Fine nib and the other came with a 1.5mm steel nib. The 18k Fine is a smooth wet writing nib with just enough tooth to keep the pen under control. The 1.5mm steel nib is quite smooth with the same amount of tooth. However, it is not quite as wet writing as the 18k fine, but I would not characterize it as dry either; it has average flow.

I’ll just mention again with Brian can and will do custom grinds for a fee and will generally adjust smoothness and flow free of charge.

Filling System

The Mina comes standard with a cartridge/converter filling system. It takes the standard international sized C/C.

You can also use your Mina as an Eyedropper filler. These are not my pens, so I did not do this, but the conversions appear to be quite simple. All you need is a little silicone grease and you should be in business. The barrels seem quite cavernous. I’d guess they hold in excess of 2ml of ink.

You can also get this model with a Bulb Filler for an additional fee. My Edison Glenmont is a bulb-filler. I love that system. It is simple yet efficient. I highly recommend this system.

Cost and Value

The Mina is slightly less expensive than Brian’s other models. It is priced at $200 for a steel nib, and $300 for an 18k nib. The bulb filling system is an additional $100. Nib customization ranges from $20-$65 depending on what you want done.

I think this is an excellent value for the quality of these pens and the time and care taken to make them.

*Note: Brian only charges $65 for custom flex grinds!

Conclusion (9/10, A-)

All in all, I think this is a fantastic addition to Brian’s line. The pen is beautiful, and comfortable in the hand. It offers a slimmer section for those with smaller hands, but the section is not so slim as to be uncomfortable for those with larger hands (such as myself).

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These pens were sent to me for review by Brian at the Edison Pen Co. They were not given to me; they were only a loan. I have since returned them. I was offered a discount if I chose to keep one of them. I declined the offer. I am not otherwise affiliated with Edison Pen Co. or Brian Gray.

Noodler’s Stylographic Pen, A Video Review

15 Oct

I was just going to do my standard write up, but I wanted to be able to demonstrate how easy it is to fill these pens up. There had been some confusion about that. This is my first video so be gentle. Videos are not really my thing, but I’ll tell you who does GREAT video reviews: Brian Goulet over at Ink Nouveau. You should check them out!

All in all this pen is decent for a roller ball; it writes a wet consistent fine/medium line. However, there is a reason I use fountain pens almost exclusively: roller balls aren’t the smoothest pens on the block. I will say this, I’d much rather have a refillable rollerball if I have to have one at all.

In the video I also compare the Creaper with a Dollar 717i. The pens are nearly identical, but I go over some differences as well. There is also a writing sample in there.

The only “issue” I have with the pen is that it squeaks as I write. I think it’s because the friction fit nib unit has a little play in it. I don’t know if this is normal or a malfunction. I’m hoping it settles down a bit with time.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions do let me know. I’ll be doing a more in-depth review of this pen at some point in the future.

(you’ll want to play the video at 480p) The writing test is at the end. Sorry.

No affil.

I purchased this pen from Todd at isellpens.com . As of the date of this posting, he is out of stock. I understand that he is expecting another shipment on 10/21. MSRP=$14

TWSBI Diamond 530, The Full Review

6 Oct

No doubt many of you have seen my TWSBI Mini Review. I’d promised a full review after I’d had a chance to live with the pen for a while. Well, this is it! Yes, I know that was in July and now its October. No need to remind me that this took 3 months! It was for good reason though. One of my complaints was with the leaky piston. I finally got the replacement piston seal a few weeks ago. I wanted to wait until the pen was functioning at 100% before I put up the review.

First Impressions

I loved the very idea of this pen, so when I was finally able to get my grubby little paws on one I was ecstatic.

I was impressed my everything about this pen from the packaging to the pen itself.

I’m not the biggest fan of demonstrator pens, but the TWSBI changed that for me.

Everything about this pen was well thought out from the design to the writing experience. Speedy and all those involved with TWSBI did a fabulous job on this pen. Two thumbs way way up here!


This pen is gorgeous. From the clear PC to the facets in the barrel to the red TWSBI emblem on the cap end.

I can certainly see why this pen won a design award. This is one of the best looking modern fountain pen designs that was recently come on the market so far as I’m concerned.


For anyone familiar with the Fountain Pen Network (FPN) you know that this pen was designed with input from the writing community. With every stage of designing this pen Speedy kept us up to date, asked for our opinions, and made changes accordingly (well as much as he could anyway). As you might also know from spending any amount of time at FPN we are in love with this pen. Then again, how could we not be? We helped design it. It’s kind of like getting a custom pen, except it’s a fraction of the price!

TWSBI and gang are still making some changes to the design. Version 1.5 of the piston seal is now out. In the coming months we should expect the 530 to be available in many other colors. There should also be a solid black 530 down the line.

Another fun aspect of this design is that it can be completely disassembled and reassembled by the user. The pen is shipped with a piston tool and a bottle of silicone grease. I can tell you from experience that it is very easy to take apart. But be forewarned, if you completely break the pen down you may have some problems getting it back together. Speedy has posted a YouTube video to help us with the reassembly. Study the video carefully. You’ll save yourself a lot of time.

(Note the mood music! LOL)

The Diamond 530 is a big pen. It is about the same size as the Pelikan m800. Really, it is. Even the dimensions are nearly identical. Also, the piston tool that comes with your TWSBI is said to be able to fit the m800 (I can’t confirm this).

This pen feels substantial in the hand. It is 5 5/8” capped, 5 1/8” uncapped, and 6 7/8” posted. Yes, the cap does post securely, but be forewarned, it posts on to the piston knob. If you twist the cap as you are trying to pull it off the end of the pen you will actuate the piston. This may very well lead to an inky disaster. I personally, wouldn’t post this pen, but it’s up to you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I don’t post any of my pens unless they are too short to use without the cap on the other end. The cap on the Diamond 530 is pretty heavy. In my opinion, it throws the balance off if you post it. You be the judge. Some folks like their pens a little back-heavy. By the way, the Diamond 530 weights in at 27 grams inked.


These pens, like almost every modern fountain pen on the market today, uses nibs and feeds sourced from Germany. There are only a few nib companies, and TWSBI has used Schmidt nib assemblies here.

The 530 ships with a rather stiff stainless steel nib that comes in either XF, F, or M. There is a little spring in the nib if you try for it. It makes for a pleasant writing experience. There are other nib sizes in the works including gold nibs, titanium nibs, stubs, italics, and flexible nibs! I personally can’t wait to see what they put out.

I chose a M nib for my pen, and I can’t be happier. When I first got it the nib was a little scratchy. These nibs do require a writing in period. My nib adjusted itself after I wrote out the first fill. It’s been perfect ever since.

Filling System

The main feature for this pen is its piston filling system. This pen takes bottled ink only.

The first run had a bit of an issue with the pistons leaking. This was something that slipped past the quality control tests. Speedy sent out a statement about the problem and offered a solution for it before we even had a chance to complain. He also took responsibility for missing the issue and promised to fix it as quickly as he could.

Thought it took a bit of time. The replacement piston seals are now out. They are referred to as version 1.5. Anyone who bought a first run TWSBI should have received one automatically. If you did not, you should contact TWSBI.

Let me just say here that this is customer service at its finest. Normally you’d have to complain before a company even admitting that the problem was theirs not yours. TWSBI is a class outfit, and they’ve certainly earned my trust!

Any TWSBI Diamond 530 you purchase from the ebay outlet or TWSBI direct will be shipped with a replacement 1.5 piston seal. I’ve installed my 1.5 and I can tell you that I haven’t had any leaking issues since.

The piston on this pen functions flawlessly and smoothly. It’s every bit as smooth as Pelikans or Mont Blancs I’ve tried. And again, the TWSBI is a fraction of the price.

Cost and Value

The TWSBI is $39.99 plus shipping. Now, let’s be clear here. For $40 you get a m800 sized piston filling demonstrator fountain pen with a decent nib. For $40 you get a pen you can completely disassemble on your own. For $40 you get a gorgeous pen from a company that stands behind its products.

I honestly, don’t know how you get a better value on a brand new pen.

Conclusion (9.9/10, A/A+)

I’ve used this pen almost everyday since I got it back in early July. I can say without a doubt that I LOVE this pen. I most definitely plan to get one of the other colors with some sort of fun nib.

There’s a vacuum filler (plunger filler) on the horizon. I plan on getting that one too.

Two thumps up for TWSBI. Keep up the great work.

No Affil.

Lamy Vista

4 Oct

First Impressions

I’ve had a Lamy before. It was an Al-Star with an extra-fine nib. I HATED it. So, when I received this pen I had my reservations, but I was determined to give the pen another try. “Many people swear by these pens,” I thought to myself. Perhaps it was just MY Al-Star.

Upon first glimpsing this Vista I discovered two things: first, I loved the way the clear pen looked as opposed to my Raspberry Al-Star (I don’t even like pink. How did I end up with a Raspberry pen?!) and second, I much prefer the acrylic over the metal. It feels better in hand.

So far so good.


After giving the pen a good cleaning (it had a dried out blue cartridge left in it) I was able to better assess the look of the pen.

The clear acrylic is a wonderful choice for a pen of this design. I found my old raspberry colored Al-Star to be a bit too angular and harsh. The transparent clear acrylic softens the lines somehow.

The silver accents (inner cap, nib, clip, barrel inscription, and converter collar) are a nice touch. However, the paper clip inspired clip is not appealing to me whatsoever.


The design of the Vista, like the Al-Star, is edgy and modern.

The pen is shaped like a squared off cylinder. There is a cut out in the barrel so that you can see the ink level (though I don’t know why you’d need such a thing with a demonstrator pen). The cap is of the same shape with a huge clip.

The pen is substantial at 5 1/2” capped, 5” uncapped, and 6 1/2” posted. It weighs about 20 grams inked.

The section of the Vista, like the Al-star and Safari, has indentation on the sides to assist you with your grip. So, if you are uncomfortable with the “schoolhouse” tripod grip you might not like the feel of this pen. I happen to use the tripod grip, so it’s not a big deal to me.


The Vista comes with a stainless steel nib. You can get it in XF, F, M, and B. Most Lamy pens have interchangeable nibs, so your Vista will also fit many of the gold nibs as well as the italic nibs.

My Vista came with a fine nib, and to my surprise it is actually very very good and a joy to use. However, there have been many complaints about scratchy Lamy nibs. In fact, my old Raspberry Al-Star’s extra-fine nib was too scratchy for my tastes.

See, this is where I have a real issue with Lamy pens, the nib quality is inconsistent. Sometimes you get a great one, and sometimes you get a real dud.

Now some will say that it’s not a big deal. Lamy nibs are easily interchangeable, so you can always buy another. Well yes, but the replacements are $11 or so, and there is no guarantee that the replacement will be any better a writer.

If you have a chance to try your Lamy before buying it I’d suggest you do just that. Otherwise, Caveat Emptor!

Filling System

The Vista uses a cartridge/converter system, and Lamy uses a propriety c/c system. This means you have to use Lamy cartridges or converters. This limits your cartridge ink color selection, but you can always flush out your old Lamy carts and refill them with whatever color you want.

The Vista uses the Z24 converter, but I’m presently using a Z26 converter I got for my Lamy Studio. The Z26 fits, but doesn’t come with the plastic bits on the side that lock the converter into place. I haven’t had any leaking issues, but I’d imagine that someone carrying this pen around might want the extra security of the Z24.

Cost and Value

These pens are inexpensive, and that is largely their appeal. They can be had for around $26. I consider them a pretty decent value at that price. They are durable as heck, and if you are fortunate enough to get one with a good nib you’ll more than likely enjoy the pen.

Conclusion (8/10, B)

All in all the Vista is a decent pen, and one that I might recommend to a newbie. My only reservation is really the inconsistent nib quality. I’d hate for a scratchy nibbed Vista to turn a newbie off our wonderful hobby.

This pen was sent to me for review by Lily at JetPens. I am not otherwise affiliated with them.

TWSBI Diamond 530, A Mini Review

7 Jul

[tweetmeme source=”dizzypen” only_single=false https://dizzypen.wordpress.com%5D

twsbi capped 2

ETA: To read the Full Review click here! 10-6-10

I don’t normally do this, but I’ve had several requests for my preliminary thoughts on this pen. These are my initial impressions. A more thorough review is a few weeks out. I generally like to live with a pen for a good while before drawing my conclusions. I will say that I am impressed by the TWSBI Diamond 530 in spite of a couple issues. NOTE: TWSBI has informed the pen owners of an issue with the piston seal. If your TWSBI is leaking at the piston seal please email Speedy about getting a replacement part. For more information click here.

For some reason I wrote Mont Blanc 149. I meant to write Mont Blanc 146. The 149 is HUGE. The TWSBI is not nearly as big. Sorry.

twisbi mini review

No Affil.


The Edison Glenmont in Purple Web Celluloid

10 Feb

Let me start this with a bit of a slideshow. One of the great things about ordering a pen from Brian is that you get to watch it being born. As I was watching Brian make my pen, I took some screen shots of the process. I’ve included captions so that you all can figure out what was going on.

I just can’t say enough about how fun it is to watch your pen being made.



First Impressions

This pen is everything I thought it would be and more. The material is unsurpassed. I never appreciated the difference between acrylic and celluloid. It is warm to the touch and seems to ‘glow’ for lack of a better word. This pen and material is near impossible to photograph properly, especially with my little Lumix  TZ4 and rigged up lighting setup. I’ve done the best I can do, but please take my word for it when I say this is a material that can only be appreciated in person and in direct sunlight!



This pen just looks great! As mentioned above, I’ve used a celluloid material. It is Purple Web by American Art Plastics and is a true Celluloid not just acrylic. I find that I quite like the slight camphor smell as I write with it. It’s not overbearing at all. The material itself is a deep purple mauve sort of color. In poor lighting it appears a plain dark plum, but when the sun shines on it it just comes alive. The material has striations in it. These striations are actually translucent, so depending on how thin the pen is turned you can actually see through them. Brian turns his pens rather thickly, so I can only see through the material near the ink window and near the cap threads. It’s a rather nice effect. In addition to the striations, the material also has a bit of silver dust sprinkled through out. This also gives it a bit of a shine.

I’ve included a picture from Brian’s Flickr page that better illustrates this than my photos. Note this is not my pen:

The expert craftsmanship is evident. If one examines the pen closely one can observe the occasional maker’s marks. This is not to say that the pen is flawed. To the contrary, the glossy finish on this pen is superb. The occasional tool mark only adds to the handmade aesthetic of the pen. It’s a bit like observing handmade carpentry (did you know Brian is also a woodworker and does beautiful Marquetry work?). I love it!



The Glenmont design is itself a sight to behold. I love that it recalls the Waterman, Sheaffer, Parker flatops that were so popular in the 20s and 30s. While I love cigar shaped pens as much as the next person there really is just something about those flat tops.

I did make a few alterations to the pen design. Most notably, my pen has no coordinating color end caps. With the material I chose I did not think them appropriate. Also, my pen is a bulb filler. This required some changes to the design of the barrel. Also, my barrel does not taper as much as the original Glenmont design. I don’t post my pens, so it was not necessary to taper it so much. Finally, I added an ink window so that I can tell when I’m running low on ink.

The quality of this pen’s construction is really unsurpassed. Everything fits tightly and flush. The threading is precise and the finish is impeccable. Really, this pen is top notch all the way!

This pen is 5 7/8” capped and 5 1/4” uncapped. If I had one complaint it would be in regards to the girth of the pen. I’d like a fatter section. As is, it is a little under .5 inch in girth. I tend to like pens with a large section so that it keeps my grip on the pen loose and thus reduces fatigue during long writing sessions. This may be something that can be address during the customization process.

In most fountain pen reviews this would be the most important section. With regards to a custom pen, I think not. When you commission a custom pen you are really commissioning the body of the pen not the nib.

Brian has sourced the best prefabricated nibs and feeds he can find and will adjust them to your preferences. I ordered two steel nibs for my pen. One was a .8mm Stub and the other was a Medium.

I ordered the stub first. The grind was well done except that it was a bit more crisp than I’d wanted. I consider this my own fault as I was not very specific about what kind of writing experience I wanted. Brian ground the nib for maximum line variation which translated into the nib writing beautifully, but not quite as smooth as I’d wanted. When I contacted Brian about this he immediately offered to adjust the nib for me. I should receive it back next week, but I am confident that it will be excellent. ***

In the meantime, and mostly because I could not bare to take this gorgeous pen out of rotation, I ordered a medium nib. We went over my exact desires for the nib (I’m a quick learner) and I am very pleased to announce that it came to me EXACTLY as I wanted. It is a wonderfully smooth and wet writer. I have no complaints or reservations about it; it is simply a joy to use. I’m sure the stub will be too.

Filling System


My pen is a bulb filler. This is a fun filling system. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do it is perfect. Might I also add that it is very easy to clean out. You simply suck up some water to rinse the feed and the filler tube. The nib unscrews so that you can rinse out the barrel.

My pen holds quite a bit of ink at over 2.5ml. I have my nib tuned to a very wet 7/10 wetness, so I go through the ink pretty quickly.

Cost and Value


What can I say? You get what you pay for. With the bulb filler, and customizations it is very easy to spend over $400 on one of Brian’s pens (though the base models are generally around $250). For the price I paid I got 1.5 months of superior customer service, it took him 3-4 hours over the course of 2 days to make my pen, and I gave my input the entire way through even as I was watching him make my pen over the webcam.

I could have gotten a Visconti Opera Master, Pelikan M800 or Auroura Optima, but I would not have gotten the service or the ability to be so deeply involved in the process. This pen was definitely worth it!

Conclusion (10/10,  A++)
I am beyond pleased with this pen. It is everything I wanted and then some. I would not hesitate to recommend Brian to anyone looking to purchase a handmade custom fountain pen. Very well done!

No Affil.

*** Just adding an update to this review.

I have received my readjusted .8mm stub nib that I mentioned in my review. The results are as I expected. It is a wonderful writer. The sweet spot is very particular, but once I found it I as more than satisfied with the result. I’ve been using the pen for several days now, and I am completely adjusted to the sweet spot.

Wonderful nib, wonderful width, wonderfully juicy. I am well pleased.

As an added bonus, I had him fashion the top of the nib into a fine point so that I can flip it over and have a fine line when needed. He did a good job with that too. The fine side of the nib is not buttery smooth, but I did not expect it to be. It is quite useful though.

Thanks Brian! :thumbup: :thumbup:

Pelikan M205 Blue Demonstrator

20 Nov

Pel M205 Posted and Ink

First Impressions

The freely admit that this was an impulse buy. I found it on sale at such a great price that I could not walk away from it despite the fact that it is a demonstrator and I generally hate demonstrators. Still, when I opened up the box I was instantly attracted to the pen

This pen is small, there is no denying that, but the blue color of the plastic is very attractive. In my opinion, it helps class the pen up a bit. If it were just clear plastic I think it would look quite cheap. I also appreciate the silver-colored furniture. I find gold trim positively revolting except when it is on a vintage black pen. Some have described the plastic as “cheap looking,” and I don’t entirely disagree, but considering the price of this pen I can get over it. 😉


Pel M205 Blue

The dimensions of this pen are as follows: 4 7/8” capped, 5 7/8” posted, and 4 3/4” unposted. This pen is quite small and incredibly light weighing in at about 1/2 oz. (16-17g) inked to capacity!

The design of the pen is simple. It does not vary from the rest of the M2xx line except in terms of finishes. This is not a design that excites me, but it is functional. As one would expect from Pelikan, the pen is well constructed. Despite it’s plasticy-ness (new word?!) it feels quite solid. I don’t feel as though I have to handle this pen with great care.

One thing I don’t like is that I have to post the cap. If I don’t, this small pen is not comfortable in the hand. With the cap posted the pen feels well-balanced.


Pel F steel Nib

This pen has a fine nib on it. This was not my choice. This was the only option available to me at the price I paid. The M205 uses the same steel nib as the M215. It is available in XF, F, M, and B. This steel fine nib is springy and quite smooth though still a little tactile on the page. Out of the box, the nib wrote a bit dry, but I adjusted the flow a little and now it is fairly juicy. I’m surprised at how much I’m liking this nib now.

I’m not a big fan of fine nibs, so I was going to send it to Chartpak for an exchange. However, I’ve decided to keep this nib. I figure I need a good fine nib and I can always buy a replacement for $30. I can even spring for a Binder Stub (.8mm) for $50.

Filling System
Now, this is the real reason I bought this pen. This little guy is a piston filler and I wanted another one for my little accumulation. The more I use them the more I realize that the piston filling system is my favorite of all. As others have noted, the Pelikan filling system is quite smooth in operation and boy does it suck! (which is a good thing for FPs) This pen holds about 2ml. of ink, which combined with the fine nib, makes for quite a lot of writing between fills. I have nothing bad to say!

Cost and Value

You can find these online for anything from $95 to $75. If you are in the market for a used one you might be able for find one in the $60 range. I’d say this is a pretty good buy even at $90, but if you can find it for $60 you’ll really have an excellent bargain on your hands.

Conclusion (9/10, A-)
While I didn’t expect it, I think I quite like this little pen. I can see this fitting right into my rotation as a great school and annotation pen especially with this great ink capacity. I’d certainly recommend this pen to anyone looking for an inexpensive, practical, and functional piston filling pen.

pel est lev compare
The perspective is a little wonky in this photo. The M205 is about the same size as the Esterbrook J next to it. Both are dwarfed by the Levenger Plumpster.

No Affil.

Items to be reviewed…

9 Oct

As I has sitting here thinking about what to post today I realized that I had lots of things that need reviewing, but I didn’t know what all they were. So, here is a comprehensive list of items I need to review. This is a much larger list than I realized!

You know, part of discovering fountain pens is also discovering a world of new products that you can use with them. When I was a rollerball user, I never had to think about which papers would work best with my nibs. Now, it’s actually something I enjoy. I really like writing on good paper with good pens filled with good ink.

Anyway, I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I really want to get my thoughts recorded about these products.


Rhodia N°18 pad, grid ruled and blank
Clairefontaine Puriture Spiral bound pad A5, line ruled
Staples Bagasse: 5×7 pad, college and wide rule filler paper, lined comp books
Neenah, Old Council Tree Bond Paper
Orginial Crown Mill, Bordered Correspondence Cards
Crane’s 90gsm ivory paper
HP LaserJet 24# paper
Quo Vadis Septanote planner
Paperchase, A6 Flexi Lined Notebook
Rhodia N°16 pad, Blank
Exacompta Basics Sketchbook with Madeira cover A5, Blank
Rhodia N°10, Lined
Quo Vadis Equology SapaX Weekly Planner

Visconti Blue
Diamine Jet Black
Diamine Poppy Red
Diamine Damson
Noodlers Polar Blue (gift from a friend)
Private Reserve Naples Blue

Stipula Vedo (gift from a friend)
Sheaffer’s Admiral Snorkel
Sheaffer’s Touchdown Desk Pen
Sheaffer’s Cadet TipDip
Sheaffer’s OS Flat Top
Sheaffer’s 825 Vacuum-Fil
Esterbrook: J/SJ

Levenger Circa System

*Those in italic are free samples from Exaclair. Everything else I purchased on my own with my own money and out of my own curiosity.

Updated 06-02-10.

Pilot Vanishing Point in Blue Carbonesque

8 Oct

This is one of my favorite pens in my accumulation. It is also one of the more popular pens in pendom. Reviews abound on nearly every website and nearly every blog. I decided to do this review because this is truly a great pen not just a gimmick. I hope you find this somewhat useful though I freely admit that there isn’t much new to say about this great pen.

Pilot Vanishing Point

First Impressions
I can’t really give an accurate account of my first impressions with this pen. I saw it in person several times before I finally decided to buy one. I do remember thinking 1. this pen is heavy and 2. that clip *is* in a weird place isn’t it?

I have to tell you, this is not the sexiest fountain pen on the block. It looks like an oversized ballpoint pen! (OK that was harsh.) I just don’t care for the appearance. BUT, I do like the Blue Carbonesque finish. It is very attractive.


VP open

The best thing about the design is the retractable nib. It just functions well. This is really my favorite part of the pen. You can operate it with one hand and you don’t have to keep track of a cap. This mechanism especially comes in handy for taking notes in a meeting or in class. HIGHLY functional. But, there is one slight drawback. Ink can get caught behind the trap door. As a result, you will need to rinse out the pen body occasionally. A tampered pipette works great for this purpose. [Note: Make sure you let the barrel air dry before reassembling the pen.]

VP open profile

Now about the infamous clip. There is no two ways about it, either you love the clip or you hate it. If you have a “schoolhouse” tripod grip, the clip should not get in the way. If you hold your pen any other way you might want to “try before you buy.” The clip doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I actually find it helpful.

The size of the pen is average at 5 1/2”. The barrel diameter is about 1/2”. It’s a comfortable size.

Many people have complained about the weight of this pen. It is about 35 grams (with ink and converter), but it feels much heavier. This is largely because of its metal construction. It is a dense pen to be sure, but not at all uncomfortable so far as I’m concerned. I use this pen to take notes in a 3 hour seminar and suffer no fatigue. YMMV


VP Full Nib

This little itty bitty nib is 18k gold. This is standard in the US, but older models and LE models can be had with rhodium nibs. My pen is a M. It writes a true medium line width, so don’t expect the “Asian nibs are a size smaller” mantra to apply here. [Note: From what I understand the fine nib does actually run finer than a western fine and the broad nib does actually run finer than the western broad, but this does not apply to the medium for whatever reason.]

VP nib

The nib writes just like I like it. The flow is VERY generous. The nib is smooth with just a hint of feedback. It’s just enough so that you know you’re writing, but not enough to make you think the nib is scratchy or toothy. [Note: If you want something ultra smooth that will “glide” effortlessly across the page you might to buy this pen from one of the famous nibmeisters and have them tune it for you.]

Filling System
Well, the filling system is cartridge / converter. Nothing to shout home about. It works exactly how it’s supposed to. I just prefer something different. One drawback to this system is that Pilot uses a proprietary cartridge/converter, so you have to use their stuff.

This pen comes with a CON-50 piston converter installed. It holds a little less than 1ml of ink. A CON-20 Squeeze converter will also fit. Many people refill Pilot cartridges with their preferred ink because this increases the ink capacity. Personally, I just use the CON-50. It’s simpler for me.

Cost and Value
I paid significantly less than MSRP for this pen at Oscar Braun Pens and would highly recommend them. They offer fast service at an affordable rate. At the $100 I paid for this pen I consider it to be a fantastic value for the money. The convenience factor is unparalleled, the construction is solid, and the nib is excellent.

Conclusion (9/10, A-)

This is an excellent pen. I recommended it so long as you try it first to make sure the clip is not an issue for you. So far as I’m concerned, this is one of those instances where a gimmick product is actually worth the hype.

I use this pen mostly for note taking. This pen just works every time without fail.

VP Closed profile

No Affil.

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