Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ink Review: Noodler's Ахматова (Russia Series)

Feeding the addiction...
I'm a fan of bright colors and even though they might be harder to use for in the office environment, I have no qualms using it for letters and notes.  The most use I get for bright colors is class notes and my language journal, so I had no problems justifying the purchase of this ink.  I was also interested in the ultraviolet qualities that this ink would exhibit, so I figured I would try it for that reason as well.

Overall impressions with this ink are somewhat lackluster unfortunately. This ink dries EXTREMELY fast on the nib, for example, if I don't write for a minute or so. Overnight, this ink gets so dry that the only pen type that is practical for this pen is a piston filler, because you can wet the nib with a twist of the back of the pen.  I believe that the ink can be made wetter by adding water, but I don't know how it would affect the way it writes. The green part of the ink washes off from skin, but under a blacklight, it'll show up for a few washes of your hands.  Another claim is that this ink is in the eternal line, so you can expect good things from it. I will be testing the properties of this ink very soon and I will be sure to let you know.
This stuff can be hard to wash off skin! Put some on before clubbing!

 Pictures can't really do this ink any justice, but I tried to do my best. This ink is best described as a spring green that turns a fantastic glow-in-the-dark green under a blacklight. The green looks silhouetted by silver when used on copy paper, but on Moleskine paper, the entire letter glows.  I was surprised most of all by the fact that there was no bleeding on Moleskine paper at all! Perhaps this is the experience others have had with these inks?

I'm now very interested in trying some of the other UV capable inks in the Russia series, and even Noodler's Blue Ghost as well. There isn't much practicality in the latter, but that doesn't mean that it won't be fun!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hero 285 in Silver and Gold

This is a modern pen I was surprised to find among those from my basement, especially because it isn't old at all. How it got thrown in with this group I can't be certain, but regardless, I'm pleased to have found it.

She's showin' off her wares...
 I quickly inked this baby up and got her down on paper so that I could try it out. It immediately proved to have a very smooth and yet fairly fine nib.  F nibs tend to be scratchy unless you shell out large amounts of money for them, and this (I'm fairly certain at least) was not a costly pen. Noodler's Polar Black was the ink I used to fill this pen. Aesthetically speaking, this pen is pretty snazzy, though I feel that the black and gold version would be slightly better looking.  The pen is excellently weighted, especially so when the cap is posted on the end.

I found the grip on this pen to be about average as far as fountain pens go, with this pen being one with a narrow barrel. I personally prefer narrow barrels because not only does the pen weigh less overall, but it fits into a pocket with much more ease and fits into my hand more comfortably. Portability and weight don't matter when you have time to sit down at a desk and write slowly, but for the average student, those are critical points in evaluation of a pen. I unfortunately can't think of a pen to compare it to, but with the solid construction and fantastic nib, all that comes to mind is a Lamy Safari, but honestly, it isn't even close.

After leaving it sitting for a few days, this pen wrote immediately, which is a practical quality that modern pens should possess.  I know that the finicky nature of vintage fountain pens can be part of the allure at times, but when I'm in class, having a pen that doesn't need constant care is much more useful. We should have standards for ourselves as fountain pen enthusiasts! If a modern pen costs over $100 and looks pretty, but doesn't write well, then we should discourage others from buying it! This pen definitely doesn't cost $100, looks very nice and writes extremely well, therefore, it is a good pen to purchase.  If you're on a budget and you still want a nice pen, then this will fit your niche very well and you'll spend somewhere between $15-20. When I checked last, had a large selection of pens made by Hero that were similar, but not exactly the same. I've never bought from them, so I can't comment about the retailer, but the members on the seem to support them.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Parker 51 Dark Blue Fountain Pen

What a cougar!
I suppose I've been on a bit of a fountain pen tear lately, but after the recent discovery of a veritable trove in my basement, I've been itching to try them all out so this is the first in a sequence of six pens (more if I can get all of them to work).  There is always that exciting feeling that you get when you try a pen for the first time, laying down line after line of pure bliss or agony, depending on the pen.  What makes the experience with the fountain pen different is that it was used by someone else.  This was when pens were made to last and be reused countless times.  A vintage pen hearkens to a time when people had a "go-to" pen and they actually carried it with them at all times. The excitement I feel is that someone lovingly filled this pen with ink,  just like me, all that time ago. I used Noodler's Polar Black by the way.

It was in this era the Parker 51 1/10 12k Gold Filled Cap Dark Blue Fountain Pen was made and purchased by my grandfather or grandmother in Singapore.  As it turns out, in the 50's, my grandmother worked at a department store in Singapore as a fountain pen salesperson.  That also explains the excellent quality that the pen was in when I found it, despite the fact that it is guaranteed to have not been used for almost 40 years.  The reputation of this pen is undoubtable and the quality has so far proven to be unmatched.

The true worth of a pen is that which the owner puts in it.  This pen by modern standards writes very well and lays down a nice wet line, in a pleasant way of course.  I'm personally a bit more of a fan of EF, but this is a case where F is quite fantastic.  We all need to remember that the nib is the most important part of the pen, and here, Parker combined a very good nib with a cheap body and an extremely smooth filling system.  The weight of this pen is great with the cap posted and a little on the light side without it.  The grip is non-existent, but the barrel tapers and fits well in the hand.  So far after a few days of carrying it around with me, there have been no leaks or any problems or issues to speak of.

Sorry, I didn't have the time to take a different picture with the paper.
I wish I had more Rhodia paper!

 They just don't make 'em like they used to.  If you're a user of modern fountain pens, I highly recommend picking one of these up.  I have heard that the best way to find one is to go to garage sales and estate auctions.  Antique stores will usually cost a bit more, but will have them.  Talk to family members and friends first though, because they just might have one sitting around.  Most likely it hasn't been used in years and they'll be happy to let you have it. There is nothing more exciting for me than following the path that a pen has travelled, being a part of that history and then ensuring that it continues.

Salvete omnes!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Noodler's Nib Creaper Fountain Pen

As an introduction to a stash of old fountain pens that I found in my basement, which my mom has lovingly let me keep (Thanks Mom!!!), I have chosen to review this rare fountain pen from the company with the catfish logo.  I feel like this pen will be a good transition to the antiques since it owes its design to older pens.

By the way, "creaper" is a play on creeper...

I ordered the Creaper Fountain Pen along with the Bad Green Gator ink that I reviewed in my last post.  I was originally drawn into using this pen because not only because it was made by Noodler's, but also because the nib was modeled after those from the 1950's and thus lacks a breathing hole.  Originally, the breathing hole was included on pens to increase ink flow, but many inks flow very well out of most pens in the modern era. Personally, I have never had any issues with ink flow with any pen, which can perhaps be owed to the quality of Noodler's Inks?

If you don't like nib creep (which is the pen ink all over the metal part of the feed, then this pen will drive you crazy. sold this pen for Noodler's as a test market, and the pen is unavailable and probably will never be produced again. It makes me happy that I bought two!

I have used Noodler's Polar Black and Bad Green Gator in this pen since I have owned it, both working perfectly in it with no problems whatsoever. I am a college student, and I carry my pens with me from class to class. I don't haphazardly stick them in pockets, but put them front shirt pockets and collars if there isn't one on my shirt. I am not by any means rough with my pens, but somehow, this pen is now riddled with cracks.

I can only remember one drop the entire time I have owned this pen, and it was from my hand to a desk, so approximately the length of my elbow. Nathan warns on the piece of paper included with the pen that the plastic used in making it was chosen more for its resistance to penetrating inks (Anyone tried Baystate Blue?) and as such is a bit brittle, but still this seems to be a bit ridiculous to me. The only thing that I can think has caused the cracks is the stress from possibly being screwed together too tight. I've not had this problem with any other pen, even the rollerball version that I bought at the same time (review to come soon).

The crack is hard to see, but it is fairly long.

You can see the crack just under the clip... sadness...

Despite this, this pen is a fantastic writer and there is some flex to the nib.  The piston filling mechanism works flawlessly in both iterations as well. I've found that for both of them, the ink will leak from the tip or flow too fast if there is too much air in the chamber. A simple twist of the piston will take care of that by pushing the air out. If you want to see the line quality, you can visit my review of Bad Green Gator, for which this pen was used.

 As always with a fountain pen that doesn't use cartridges, the pen is an investment for the future that is not only friendly for the earth but your wallet as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ink Review: Noodler's Bad Green Gator

I have a confession: I love Noodler's Inks. So far, I haven't found one that I've been displeased with. Sure, I've tried other inks, but the permanence of Nathan's creations over at Noodler's are the most attractive features to me, while other inks offer special appearance under UV light or the ability to resist freezing in even in the coldest Chicago winters.  The ability of the written word to survive longer than the writer and potentially outlast the life of the very paper upon which it was written is one of the most attractive features of the fountain pen and these very special inks.  Personally, I was interested in getting a dark green colored ink that would be acceptable for turning in on papers for classes.

Bad Green Gator.... Bad Green Pine Tree just didn't sound as tough.
The Bad Green Gator is an ink that is part of the Warden Series of inks that were developed after a student at Yale cracked through Nathan's bulletproof inks.  Noodler's apparently has an offer to the public that if they can remove his bulletproof inks from an ordinary check that he will pay them $2000 as long as they show him how they did in person. Nathan then takes that method and develops an ink that is impervious to it. The Warden Series is the response to that Yale student's laser removal. Yes, lasers.  Now your fountain pen ink can be laser-proof!

Fantastic on Rhodia Paper!
The ink was a bit darker than I expected and less washed out than anticipated, and both points were immensely pleasing. I would compare this to a dark evergreen for those of you whose computers won't display colors adequately.  The ink flows well from the nib of my Noodler's Nib Creaper Fountain Pen (Review to follow soon, hopefully).  This ink is very susceptible to feathering on cheaper papers, but not too much more than Polar Blue or Black.  This ink arrived in the mail just in time to write Christmas letters, for which I feel the color is perfect. The letters that I used are made of paper that is conducive to feathering, but I couldn't afford anything more expensive, so I somewhat expected it.

Japanese practice went well.

On Rhodia paper, the ink didn't feather at all and was fantastic in helping me study for my Japanese quiz.  I have not yet tested this ink against water and various removal methods (including lasers) but I think that I can go without testing this one, especially since acquiring a laser could be quite costly.  Even though I don't write many checks, I still appreciate the idea that whatever I write is permanent in every way possible, made available at a very reasonable price.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Life-Changing Mechanical Pencil

In America, where the price dictates the quality of our writing instruments and 25¢ pens endlessly abound, the mechanical pencil always just seemed to serve it's function. Sure, the lead was always breaking, and when you write, you have to turn your pencil all the time so that you don't have a sharp edge to cut your paper. The grips are usually uncomfortable and the colors are insipid, the latter of which isn't always bad.

My first trip to Asia, after realizing that I appreciated writing instruments, changed my view on mechanical pencils:

I could just watch 'em turn all day

Walking through a stationery store, I noticed this mechanical pencil, the Uni Kuru Toga. I picked it up and tried to decipher the pictures on the back, since I didn't yet know any Japanese. The concept seemed fascinating. There is a mechanism within the pencil that rotates the lead for you. Now, up until this point, I hadn't actually realized that I was turning my mechanical pencil. I now realized that I didn't have to anymore. I also noticed that because of the point that is created, the lead doesn't break anywhere near as often.

 There isn't too much of a grip on it, but it isn't uncomfortable at all. (Besides, if you wanted one with a grip you could get the Kuru Toga Alpha Gel version anyway) Coming in two lead size variations, I've found this to be the only mechanical pencil I will ever use again. I prefer to use Pentel Ain HB leads, and combined with either the .3 or .5 version of the Kuru Toga, pure bliss ensues. I can write uninterrupted in class and I don't have to worry about the letters being in weird shapes or indecipherable blobs or accidentally ripping holes in my notebook, especially when I'm writing in Japanese. The line is always sharp and sometimes I feel like it is .1mm sharper than the lead number because of the mechanism always keeping the pencil sharp.
The .3 is on the left...

From my experience, any lead that is softer than HB grinds away much too fast for the mechanism to work, and for the .3 version, I would almost say to use a harder lead.  This is a pen that can take the edge off of your work, whether by not having to worry about your writing, or by simply being entertaining.  The colors of this pen are very nice as well, even though with a lot of use, the paint does scratch off.  These pencils are available online at the usual websites, along with the pictures to help understand the internal mechanism.  Uni is supposedly working on bringing a .7 version out, but it is unclear as to when that will happen because the mechanism takes up a decent amount of space in the barrel of the pen.
(written in a Moleskine)

Never again will I use a cheap mechanical pencil, having now lived through the euphoria that is the Kuru Toga. I have 3 and I firmly believe that they are worth every single penny. My addiction to pens ensures that I will still get new pencils, but the Kuru Toga will always have a place on the top of my list.