Tag Archives: pens

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

No Affil.

Fountain Pen Network LE 2011. Which one should I get?

19 Jun

As many of you are aware, FPN is doing a run of Limited Edition Pens for 2011. The options are a Stipula Passaporto, Stipula Modello T, or Stipula Etruria. (You can see pictures and get more info on the pens by Clicking Here.)

I want one. As a matter of fact, I will buy one. I just can’t decide which one to buy! The Etruria is out of the question. I just cannot afford it right now, but I like both the Passaporto and the Modello T. Actually, I like the Passaporto more than the Modello T, but I’d really like to have that Titanium Semi-Flex nib!

Which one should I get? Modello T or Passaporto?


My Writing Arsenal *Updated*

9 Dec

In February I put up a blog post about my arsenal. That is the list of the items in my accumulation that I could not live without. Needless to say, my opinions have changed with my collection. In addition, as I get deeper and deeper into my school work, my needs have changed tremendously. So, it’s time for a bit of an update (OK, more than a bit of an update. This is a long post. You’ve been forewarned!)

Pens:  Pilot VP, Pilot Custom 823, Pilot Prera, TWSBI Diamond 530, Edison Glenmont

Until I started this posted I had not realized just how much I use and rely on my Pilot pens. I would have never described myself as a Pilot fan, but I guess this makes me one doesn’t it?

The VP remains the perfect note-taking pen. The click/retractable nib mechanism makes it perfectly suited for jotting down quick notes in a meeting or when on the go.

I purchased the 823 (review forthcoming) specifically for use in drafting my long papers, articles, and chapters. It is really perfect for that task. It holds over 2ml of ink when I use my Visconti Inkpot (review forthcoming) to fill it. The Broad nib is juicy and smooth which makes writing fun while also forcing me to slow down.

My little Brown Prera (review forthcoming) is my editing, grading, and marginalia pen. It’s super fine and smooth nib makes it perfectly fit for that purpose. It’s also a comfortable little pen.

The TWSBI was also purchased with long writing sessions in mind. Boy is it a winner! I love that thing. I use it most everyday.

My Glenmont remains a favorite especially for letter writing, but then I designed it myself, so why wouldn’t it be?

The Stipula Vedo and Levenger Plumpster have fallen off the list. I still like them quite a bit, but as my workload has changed so have my writing instrument needs. The Vedo’s nib is a bit too sharp for long writing sessions and the Plumpster lacks the ink capacity I need for lots and lots of writing.

Inks: Noodler’s Navy, Noodler’s #41 Brown, J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune

Noodler’s Navy has become my workhorse ink. It’s near-bulletproof, so I don’t have to fear for my writing’s longevity. It’s an unassuming and relatively nondescript dark blue, so it’s not at all distracting. It’s extremely well-behaved no matter what I throw at it. To me, this is the definition of workhorse. I’m seriously considering ordering a 16 ounce bottle of the stuff… maybe I should make that 32 ounces just to be on the safe side?

Noodler’s #41 Brown is a great dark brown. It’s very well-behaved and bulletproof to boot. I’m entering a phase in my writing where I need to know that it will survive the odd spill (I’ve got a story behind this, but that is for another time).#41 accomplished this goal while still being nice to look at.

I love purple inks, so it’s only right that one be on this list. Poussiere de Lune is just the ticket. I have a lot of purple inks, but this is one of my favorites. It also has a good measure of water resistance. That is a must.

Visconti Blue has fallen off the list, but I still believe it belongs in every ink collection. It is the perfect medium dark blue to me. It is exceedingly well-behaved, and it is vibrant enough to set you part from the crowd while still maintaining its professional air. The only problem for me is that it offers absolutely no water resistance. It this point, water resistance is non-negotiable.

MB Violet has fallen off this list as well. I still love it and it still holds all the sentimental value it did before, but I just don’t use it as much as I used to.

Journals: I still haven’t found “the one.” I do still use and quite like my Exacompta Basics sketchbook, but I’m not sure it is the one. I’ve tried and loved the Rhodia Webnotebook, but I haven’t had it and used it long enough to know if it is really “the one.” After I finish the Exacompta, the Webbie is going to become my dedicated journal. We’ll see what happens.

Stationery: American Stationery Business Monarch and Crane’s 90gsm Pearl White

I still use the Business Monarch as much as I did.  I’ve also developed a fondness for the Crane’s paper. Lately, I’ve been using it almost exclusively. My pens and inks love both these papers, and the papers certainly look the part.

Paper for everyday use: HP LaserJet 24lbs.

I simply cannot say enough good things about this paper. All of my pens and inks love it. It is smooth and it resists feathering and bleed through. At $9.99 per ream of 500 sheets it is quite affordable. The local big box office supply stores often run 2 for 1 specials on it, so that’s 1000 sheets for $10. That’s some of the better rates I’ve seen for good quality consistent paper. I go through a lot of this paper, and it does not break the bank. This is always a good thing when it comes to the student budget.

Staple’s Bagasse has fallen off the list. It has become a bit inconsistent, and I’m no longer a fan of its thin crispy feel and lined rule. It also bleeds like crazy.

Planner: This category is presently in flux. I had been using and loving a Quo Vadis Septanote, but I thought I’d do better with a pocket planner. This academic year I’ve switched to the Quo Vadis University. It is quite similar to the Septanote, but it’s pocket-sized. So far so good, but I still need a desk planner I love. I’m trying out the Quo Vadis Principal, but I’m not sure I like it.

Misc.: Circa Desk Punch, Rollabind discs, Large Staples Rolla Notebook

When I made my first arsenal post I speculated that the Circa punch would become a staple. Well, it has in a big big way. I was able to get one of the older versions for $30 from the Levenger Ebay Outlet. That plus Rollabind discs also from Ebay had me all set to punch and organize. Covers were and are, to some extent, an issue. Levenger covers are expensive, so I went on a search for cheap cover options.

While at Staples I noticed a Rolla Notebook. It is, of course, disc bound with a stiff yet padded black faux leather cover. It fits 8.5×11 paper, so it seemed perfect. I got it home, and I tried it out. The paper sucks SUCKS, so I recycled it and refilled the Notebook with my beloved HP LaserJet paper. PERFECTION!!!


So there you have it. These are the writing products I cannot live without. How about you? What are you using and loving these days?

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.

I Made a Pen Stand!

3 Aug

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

I like woodworking. I mean REALLY like woodworking. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the space or the tools to do it since I move away from home several years ago.

Well, a couple finicky vintage pens changed all that. They only like to be stored nib up. If stored on their sides they spit ink. So, I needed to find a way to safely store them nib up: enter the pen stand.

I knocked this together with very little:

2’x2″x1″ piece of red oak
1 piece of 3/8″ oak dowel
1 3/8″ drill bit
1 3/4″ drill bit
Wood glue
Nails (optional)
Sand Paper

The result:

Pen Stand


PR Orange Crush and The Best Season Change of All

5 Oct

Mento and PROC Card
Originally uploaded by Dizzypen

This is my absolute favorite time of year. Where I live it’s gone from hot and humid 90° weather to about 70° with a chill in the air. I just love this.

I am basically surrounded by trees and they are just beginning to change colors. There is just a bit of yellow and orange beginning to show in the tree leaves. It’s only a matter of time before they turn red and then begin to fall. What other season change is full of such beautiful warm colors and cozy weather?

So, in honor of my love of this time of year, I have inked up a Laban Mento in Autumn flake with Private Reserve Orange Crush. If it’s Autumn outside it might as well be Autumn in my office, right?

Now, about the ink:

The color is a fantastic autumn-y burnt orange. The color does change a bit when it come in contact with air and/or when it sits in the feed for a while. This means that when you first start writing, the ink starts out a bit brown and then changes to the orange-y color as you continue to write. I happen to love this color variance, but I understand that others may not.

PR Orange Crush is very well behaved. I’ve observed no feathering and no bleed through. The flow is generous, but it does give the pen a bit of a dry feel, so the lubrication could be better.

Now one major drawback to this ink is the dry time, it is incredibly slow drying on papers that have a slightly glossy finish ie Clairfontaine, Rhodia, Exacompta, etc. If you are using an absorbent paper, like inkjet paper, the drying time is not bad.

All in all, I really like this ink. If something could be done about the drying time I’d be in love with it. As is, it is a perfect Autumn ink.

Have you switched over to an Autumn ink? If so, what is it?

No Affil.

Here is a clearer picture of the review card:

PR Orange Crush Card

%d bloggers like this: