Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Introducing: The Goulet Gallery!

We took all of our best fountain pen images and created the Goulet Gallery for you to be able to download them as wallpaper backgrounds, for free! We exported our images in different resolutions and aspect ratios, optimized to work on all of your favorite digital devices. This video shows you how to navigate the gallery and download your favorite images.

Here are a sample of some of our pictures, I've had a blast taking them over the last couple of years and I'm excited to share them all with you :)

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mailbox Monday #21

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

I saw you using some silicone grease in one of your videos. I have some plumbing silicone grease and was wondering if I could use that, or if there's something special about the grease made for pens?
As long as what you're using is 100% silicone, you should be just fine. The stuff we get is 'food grade', but that shouldn't make a difference for use in a pen. The main idea is that you was a silicone grease that is inert and won't react with any of the inks that you use. You just want to make sure you're not using silicone caulk, that's a whole different situation!
Right now I have the Lamy Safari, and while I love having a basic fountain pen, I can see some areas for improvement. I hate the triangle grip, and upon some research, it seems I'm not alone. Also, I'm a sweaty dude, and my hand slips on the resin body, making the grip problem worse. Lastly, I think the Safari is ridiculously light. So I'm looking for something heavier with a more normal grip shape. I had my eyes on the stainless steel Lamy Studio, which is heavier. Is that a rubber grip on there? Alternatively, could you make recommendations for a nice go-to pen under, say, $150?
The Safari's a pretty rocksteady pen, I use several even though I have many more expensive pens. They're the 'old faithfuls', and I end up bringing them places where I think they might get lost/stolen/broken, rather than nicer pens. I completely hear where you're coming from about the grip thing, I have huge hands and the triangular grip gets old after a little while. I don't like to use the Safari continuously for too long.

The Stainless Steel Studio would be a nice upgrade. It's heftier (31g to the Safari's 19g) for sure, and that black grip section is indeed rubber. It's awesome! The other Studios aren't as ideal because the smooth metal grip section gets hard to hold after a while, but the rubber one is glorious. Plus, the brushed stainless steel gives a really cool kind of reflective effect, it's just to look at if you like shiny things :) Other pens that might be worth considering (especially taking the grip section into consideration) would be the TWSBI 540, TWSBI VAC-700, Monteverde Invincia/Invincia Deluxe/ColorFusion, Sheaffer Prelude, and Sheaffer 300. I highly recommend playing around with all of these in our new Pen Plaza!
I have used cartridges in all of my pens instead of converters and I will be saving my empty cartridges from here on out to fill as I saw demonstrated in your video - when using the converter, is it necessary to have to twist it down to ensure inkflow or is it typical to just fill the converter and write as with a cartridge until it is empty? My reason for asking is that I have placed a converter in one of my Monteverde pens and it seems like I have to adjust the converter every few minutes while writing. Am I doing something wrong?
I wouldn't say it's 'necessary' to twist down the converter to keep a pen going, though sometimes this may be the case. In most pens, this shouldn't have to happen, the ink should draw through the pen by capillary action on its own, without needing any 'help' from you or the converter. This means that it shouldn't make a difference one way or another whether you use a cartridge or converter. However, it's not always the case. Is the problem that the pen is stopping writing completely, or is it just that it writes lighter and without as much color as you'd like? Depending on which situation you have means different things. It also helps to know what ink you're using. What have you tried?

If you have a pen that doesn't stop completely but just writes very weak, there could be a couple of things going on:

1) The pen could be clogging a bit due to it needing to be cleaned, try giving it a thorough cleaning if it's been more than a month since you've last done it. Here's my video on pen maintenance.

2) The pen could just write dry. Some pens flow wetter or drier than others, and sometimes you may just want a pen to write wetter than it does. Forcing the ink down gets it to write wet for a little while as you're flooding the feed, but it'll go back to 'normal' shortly. If what you truly want is a wetter writing pen, you can try using a wetter ink (especially a lubricated ink such as the Noodler's American Eel series inks), or have the pen adjusted by a nibmesiter, though this is usually a last resort as it's somewhat costly and takes a while.

3) The ink you're using may just write dry. The pen might be fine, but the ink itself may just tend to be stingy in general, or with the particular pen/feed design. Trying different inks will tell you if you have a pen or ink issue.

If your pen is stopping completely:

1) Try a thorough cleaning, as that's usually the cause.

2) If that doesn't work, try a different ink (after cleaning it out) to see if that changes anything. If every ink you're using dries up and the pen won't write, that's a pen issue and it needs to be fixed. Return the pen or have it adjusted by a pro.

(response back) Brian - thanks for the fast response my friend! The pen is a Monteverde Catalina with a stub nib and I'm using Monteverde Blue/Black. It starts out "wet" and then gets lighter. I have only tried the converter - have not tried a cartridge on it yet. The pen is new so I don't think it needs to be cleaned. I am not familiar enough with various inks to know if that may be the problem. I have a bottle of Waterman Blue Black that I could try. Have heard of Noodler's (from your website) - just not sure if that is the problem. I do have some Pelikan, MontBlanc, Waterman, and Private Reserve cartridges so I can try different inks. I realize the stub nib may also tend to write "wetter" than a fine or medium nib - I'm still learning how it writes. Am wondering if perhaps switching to a cartridge won't improve the situation?

(my response) The main difference you're going to see with the cartridge and converter is that when you're filling a pen with a converter, the feed will be saturated and will write a bit wetter at first...then it will equalize to it's natural flow once the excess ink is worked through the feed from the filling process. A cartridge is kind of the opposite, because when you're starting a pen with a cartridge, the feed is dry and all of the ink is coming from behind it. So when you're starting out with a cartridge, it'll write dry and eventually come into it's natural flow. But, whether you're using a cartridge or converter, the ink and the pen are the same, and they should flow the same once you've gotten through the initially first few lines.
What I'm betting is that you like the way that your pen writes while the ink is very saturated in the feed, and so you keep saturating it to give it that volume of ink. I think that going to a cartridge you'll be disappointed, as it'll write essentially the same as the converter when you would want to flood the feed (except you won't be able to flood it!). So basically there are two ways around it...you can either have the pen modified by a nibmeister to increase the ink flow (which can be done, but may not be worth the cost to you), or you can switch to a more saturated ink color. In my experience, Monteverde's Blue Black is not very saturated in color, I think there are a lot of other blue blacks that would be more pleasing to your eye ;) 
I would try playing around in the Swab Shop and see what Blue Blacks are more appealing to you, then consider getting some samples of those. Some off the top of my head that you'll probably like: Noodler's Blue Black, Noodler's Air Corps Blue Black, Diamine Twilight, Waterman Blue Black (now called Mysterious Blue), Noodler's Navy, Diamine Denim.
While shopping around on your site, I've been considering picking up either a Sheaffer Prelude or a Sheaffer 300. Both in black GT. Besides the discrepancy in the gloss vs. matte, weight (300 being cap heavy), and [although relatively small difference in] length, what's the difference between these pens?
Aside from the weight and just general design of the pens, the Prelude and 300 are pretty similar. They have the same nib and feed, so write nearly identical. It's just the size, weight, and style that differentiate them. The 300 is pretty cap-heavy when posted, so unless you have large hands or plan to use the pen unposted, the Prelude is usually the preferred choice.
I was wondering if I will have a problem taking my Lamy Safaris filled with ink on an 8 hour flight. Will they get messed up or leak?
When flying with a fountain pen, it's really all about the volume of ink and the orientation of the pen. It doesn't have too much to do with where or how long you're flying, or the brand of pen. The pressure changing in the cabin affects the pens, especially during takeoff and landing so during those times you'll definitely not want to be using them! There are a few pieces of advice I can give when flying with pens:

1) If you can, just clean them and keep them empty before flying, it's the only 100% guaranteed way to avoid an ink spill ;) 
2) If you fly with your pens, keep them stored with the nib pointed up, as any air in the ink chamber will remain near the nib this way. The reason ink spills during flight is because the pressure in the airplane cabin is only pressurized to maintain what you'd normally feel around 6,000 feet (or 8,000, I've been told both) elevation, so the pressure in the cabin decreases as you go up in the air (compared to the ground). This means the pressure in your pen is higher than the surrounding environment, and when that happens...it wants to equalize. There's only one place for the air to go, and that's through the nib. And if there's ink between the air in the ink chamber and the nib, then the ink is going out! So if you keep your pens pointed nib up while flying, this keeps the air bubble in the pens at the nib. 
3) Keep your pens as full as you can if you keep them inked. Where you get into trouble is when you have some ink and a lot of air, as the more air there is in the ink chamber, the more likely it is to leak (for the reasons in #2).

So there you go, keep them either full or empty, and keep the nib pointed up and you'll be okay :) And if you want to be really safe, put them in a ziploc bag that way if the worst happens and you do get a leak, it's contained :)

I've been reading alot to try and find it then I realized it might be easier to just ask you guys! I am looking for an inexpensive fountain pen (<$30) that is easy to clean and completely disassemble. I want to be able to completely remove the collector/feed and nib. I can't seem to get at the collector in the Lamy vista or Platinum preppy and always seem to see ink stuck in there. Is there such a beast?
The thing about fountain pens under $30 is that most of them are assembled by machines and not necessarily designed to be taken apart on a regular basis...so there are a few pens but not a vast collection of them. The feed on the Lamy can come out, but it's not necessarily easy to do or recommended because it's easy to put it back in incorrectly which can damage it. The Noodler's pens all come apart completely, The Monteverde Artista Crystal does (though it's $36), Kawecos do, so does the Pilot Parallel and Pilot Plumix, those are both italic nibs. And that's it for pens under $30 that disassemble, at least that I know! 
I loaded a Lamy Vista with baystate blue as soon as I purchased it. I then saw your video on how the Lamy's come with a little bit of ink still in them. I also heard that mixing baystate blue with any other ink will cause a black hole to open to an alternate universe! If it was going to clog, it would happen right away right? it's not something that would take a while to happen? I've since flushed everything out with JB Pen flush, but I can see a little blue in the collector. Just wondering if I should really make the effort and pull the collector or if I don't really have anything to worry about. 
If Baystate Blue was going to react with an ink, it would happen pretty much within an hour or two. And since you've thoroughly cleaned out the pen since then anyway, I'd say you're in the clear :) You're not the first person to load up a new Lamy with Baystate Blue, and I've never heard of it being an issue. The reason I made the video about cleaning a new Lamy pen was more because some people using lighter (yellow) inks in a new pen would get something that looked more green...
Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling this coming week's emails into next week's Mailbox Monday post!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Edison Nouveau Encore Price Drop

We're dropping the price on the Edison Nouveau Encore from $185 to $165, thanks to Brian Gray's production improvements and our desire to make the pen more affordable. Because we feel it's the right thing to do, we've credited back anyone who's bought the pen already for the difference :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

FP101: Nib Materials

As most fountain pen enthusiasts, and they'll say the most important part of any fountain pen is the nib, as that's what actually touches the paper while you write. As you investigate into different types of fountain pens, you'll find that there are two main distinctions of nibs: gold and stainless steel. The prices of pens can range anywhere from a few dollars to thousands and up...and once you hit a certain threshold around $150-200, gold nibs begin to come standard on most pens, needing a really good reason to still be stainless steel at that price.

In this video, I look to clarify the difference between gold and steel nibs, and what you can expect when shopping for a pen in certain price ranges. I've spoken at length with Brian Gray of the Edison Pen Company about the difference of gold and steel nibs. He's actually written a great article about this very issue that I encourage you to check out.

Here's what I cover in the video:

  • Gold and Steel Nibs, what's the difference? (0:25)
  • Nib color/coatings, such as Lamy steel and black nibs, and Pilot VP gold or rhodium nibs (4:00)
  • Prices of fountain pens and what nibs to expect (5:30)

Pens featured in this video:

Wow, I didn't realize I'd pulled out so many pens for this vid! I'm sure this video might raise as many questions as it answers for you, but at least I wanted to get something out there about gold and steel nibs, since I do get asked about this a lot. If you have more questions though, feel free to ask in the comments! I'm always looking for more ideas for future videos.

See the other Fountain Pen 101 videos here.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mailbox Monday #20

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

Your new Pen Plaza is FANTASTIC! The only piece of constructive advice about the Pen Plaza I might offer is this: perhaps you could include some not-for-sale pens that are fountain pen standards--Parker "51", Esterbrook, Sheaffer, etc. This would help with a further comparison. For instance, I don't have any Monteverde pens or any Lamy pens. But, I have quite a few "51"s and knowing what that feels like (size-wise) can help me conceptualize what any other pen might feel like. Perhaps this is in the future. I can't imagine all the work that went into getting the Pen Plaza up and running. Perhaps the "classic" pen comparison can be done in the future.
That's a really good idea. I don't actually have any of these pens, otherwise I would have included them! I'm definitely open to including pens outside of what we sell (you can see several pens we don't carry in there already), especially the 'classics'. I just need to get my hands on some! Maybe I'll look at some at the DC pen show next month.
What is the status of the J. Herbin blotter rocker? It has been out of stock for a while. Just wondering.
Sigh, I know, we've been out of them forever. Our J. Herbin distributor has been out of them for a long time, and they've been waiting on a shipment of them to come in from France. I know they just got in a big container recently, so hopefully their working through it and can get us restocked on some blotters soon. We're waiting here impatiently for them :)
Do you know if Nathan is planning on making any more fountain pens with standard nibs or is he just focusing on specialty nibs?
For the time being it's just flex nibs. I don't know if he'll plan to make conventional nibs again, I would say probably not in the short-term.
Will Nathan be making any more of the aerometric/eyedropper ebonite fountain pens?
I'm also a little unsure about these. We haven't been able to order them for a loooooong time, I would say they're probably not going to be available for a while yet. I think that Nathan's had some issues with the ebonite and he's working on it, but it's taking a while.
I see that Noodler's Upper Ganges Blue is an Eternal ink. Does it run on the dry side like some of Noodler's other eternal inks, like the Russian inks?
I actually haven't had the chance to ink it up yet, but I do believe it's going to behave much like the other eternal inks, like the UK and Russian inks. It's similar to the them, in price, properties, and permanence. I would fully expect it to write a bit dry. There are a couple of threads going on about the ink on the Fountain Pen Network here and here.

Every year Pilot comes out with a limited edition color for their vanishing point fountain pens. Do you have any info on what this year's color will be. Last year it was around this time that they made the announcement on what the color is. Also, will you be getting any of them in or will it be a special request thing only?
September 15th is the target release date for this year's LE VP, so it'll be announced somewhat soon. Yeah, it was a little earlier than this last year. We're not supposed to talk about what it is yet, so I can't spill the beans for you, but we'll be posting it on our website and blog as soon as we have the go-ahead from Pilot to talk about it. We are going to be getting some of them, though I'm not sure which nib sizes. Last year we only were offered medium nibs of the LE, which we happily took, but we were a really new retailer for Pilot then. I'm hoping that we'll be able to get a better selection this year!
I just watched your YouTube video about the Platinum 3776 Century Black in Black SF fountain pen. I've been using Platinum Carbon black in my rigid nib Pelikans for some time now and am VERY pleased with the results I achieve in my artwork (which involves applying watercolor washes over the dry ink drawings.) However, I've recently been thinking about purchasing a new pen that could handle the PC ink and could offer me more expressive line variety (i.e., a flex, or at least a soft, nib).

I had been leaning toward the Falcon but wasn't certain it would handle the PC ink well, and the 3776 Century seems to have been designed specifically with this ink in mind.

Platinum Carbon Black is pretty awesome for ink washing! I'm glad you're enjoying it. The new 3776 Century pens (which include the black, bourgogne and the LE Shoji) have a specially designed cap that seals the pen to keep it from drying out, that's the biggest advantage it has over other pens, and why the pigmented inks work well in it. The biggest problem with pigmented inks is that they are a pain to clean if they dry out in a pen, so eliminating that as a problem is a big win for these pens. The new LE Shoji even comes with Carbon Black and Pigmented Blue ink cartridges WITH the pen, a first for Platinum. That's how confident they are with their new cap design.

As for the soft fine nib, it's similar to the Falcon but not quite as broad when you flex it. Here:

The 3776 feels just as soft, but doesn't give the same line variation on the page. As far as the Falcon handling PCB okay, I think it would do just fine, you'd just want to make sure you flush it out regularly to keep it from drying out, probably once a week (maybe more if you are in a very hot, dry climate). I have a review of the Falcon here

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling this coming week's emails into next week's Mailbox Monday post!

Friday, July 20, 2012

FP101- Refilling An Ink Cartridge

I've talked about ink cartridges and filling mechanisms already in the Fountain Pen 101 series, and I want to build upon that with today's tutorial on refilling empty ink cartridges.

Why would you refill ink cartridges?

  • To save money, so you don't have to buy a converter for your cartridge/converter pen
  • Higher ink capacity, some cartridges have higher ink capacities than their matching converters
  • More ink options, as some pens only take cartridges like the Kaweco Sport and J. Herbin Rollerball pen

There are just a few things you'll need to refill your ink cartridges:
  • A pen that takes cartridges
  • Empty ink cartridges (you'll need to save these, as you usually can't buy them empty)
  • At least one ink syringe, two make the process faster
  • Water
  • Bottled ink

That's it! You're essentially just flushing the dirty cartridge out with water and refilling it with ink. This process isn't quite as convenient as filling a pen with a converter, but it can be really helpful in certain situations!

There are also a lot of other great uses for ink syringes, see my video on them here.

Let me know what you think about it in the comments :) See the other Fountain Pen 101 videos here.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Introducing: The Pen Plaza!

The Pen Plaza is the latest (free) interactive tool we've developed at GouletPens.com, where you can compare standardized images of fountain pens side-by-side. Here's the concept: pictures of pens are nice, but it's hard to tell how they compare to each other visually when looking at them on a computer screen. One of the hardest things to tell is how the diameters and lengths of the pens compare, specifically at the grip sections which are usually tapered and hard to measure with numerical dimensions. In order to help to solve this, we've taken custom images of every pen model we have in a very consistent manner (and on Rhodia 80g dot pad paper, which has dots 5mm apart), and set them up in a tool where you can pull up three pens side-by-side to compare them.

All closed pens are pictures with caps to the left, and left aligned. 
Uncapped pens are aligned where the nib meets the grip section, to show the grip section and nib comparisons most easily.

You can easily select to see all three images of a single pen (closed, open, posted) with one click in the top drop-down.

A couple of other things to point out:

  • If you know the pen you want to see, you can just click on the drop down, hit the starting letter on your keyboard, and it'll jump you down to that letter.
  • The pens are listed alphabetically first by brand, then by model.
  • If you hover over the image for a second, it'll tell you the model of the pen you're seeing.
  • If you click on the image, it'll bring you to the product category page, and you can click through to find out more about the pen, including full numerical dimensions.
  • We do have some pens in the Plaza that we don't carry at GouletPens.com, and those ones will not link to anything when you click on them. We put them there just for reference, in case you already own that pen and want to compare it to something else. We figured the more pens in the Plaza, the better!

There are a few shortcomings of this tool. The pens themselves aren't actual size, and the size of the images will change depending on the size and resolution of your monitor. However, the pictures are all taken to be as precise and consistent as possible in relation to each other, so you're seeing the pens as identically matched as they can be in an image. We also haven't taken pictures of every color of every pen, that would be overwhelming. We chose one color of each model/body style of pen to represent it in the Plaza, so you won't be comparing the different colors of the same pen styles. That's not really the idea behind this, it's more to get a visual display of the pens compared to other pens.

We hope that the Pen Plaza will be something you enjoy. It was a lot of work, but something that we think will benefit the writing community. It goes in line with the philosophy that drove us to develop our other tools like the Swab Shop (comparing ink colors), the Nib Nook (fountain pen writing samples), and the Fountain of Knowledge (variety of educational tools on fountain pen usage). These tools are all free for you to enjoy as a writing enthusiast, and we will continue to develop tools like these in the future to help make fountain pens a more enjoyable hobby for anyone passionate about them. 

What do you think? I'd really love to hear your opinions of our latest tool!

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July Ink Drop Theme & Contest!

We're starting a new monthly event to tie into our Ink Drop club (if you aren't familiar with it, go here to learn more). Each month on the blog when we reveal what the colors were for the theme, we'll commence a contest! All you have to do is to submit an entry that uses all five Ink Drop colors and is related to that month's theme.

July's theme was Summer Olympics. Each color represents one of the five rings in the Olympic flag, and each ink is from a different country. The colors chosen were:
Contest Entry Guidelines/Rules:
  1. You can submit any kind of writing or artwork. It can be an ink review, a poem, a watercolor wash, a sketch, or even get all scientific with chromatography... it just has to be ink on paper.
  2. You must use all five Ink Drop colors.
  3. Entry can be submitted electronically (email rachel@gouletpens.com) or via snail mail (The Goulet Pen Company, 10201 Maple Leaf Court, Ashland, VA 23005). Any physical submissions will become our property to hang up on our letter wall. :)
  4. Entry must be received by July 31, 2012 at 11:59pm EST.
  5. You can submit as many entries as you like, but you will only be eligible for one prize.
  6. Please include your name and email when submitting your entry so that we can contact you if you're a winner!
  7. The voting period will be open on August 1, 2012 and close on August 6, 2012 at 11:59pm EST. It will be announced through Ink Nouveau with a link to the image gallery and a link to vote. You may vote once - just vote for your favorite entry!
  8. The entry receiving with the most votes will win a $25 GouletPens.com gift certificate. The second- and third-place entries will each receive a $10 gift certificate. We'll announce the winners on August 7 on Ink Nouveau.
Email us if you have any questions, and let us know what you thought of this month's colors in the comments below!

Wed. Review- Monteverde One-Touch Engage Rollerball

Monteverde's new One Touch Engage is a refillable rollerball click pen with a stylus on top, able to be used on your touch electronic devices. It's a pretty darn cool pen, and I show it to you here and write with it next to a Noodler's rollerball and J. Herbin rollerball.

Monteverde One-Touch Engages, both carbon fiber available with black or rose gold trim

The Engage has a lot going on with it, you have a refillable rollerball pen, which is pretty cool especially given that it uses a standard international cartridge or converter, a really nice touch. It makes it about as convenient as can be. The converter itself is a pretty recognizable standard international, with one additional touch, it is threaded so it is really secure. This makes filling easy, as you don't have to worry about the rollerball tip dropping off the end of the converter!

Monteverde One-Touch Engage, Carbon Fiber with black trim, disassembled

It also has a stylus top, which is a soft conductive rubber that works much like your finger to carry an electric charge to operate touch devices. It works quite well, and is a patented feature by Monteverde.

The pen writes really well, the rollerball tip is the wettest writing refillable rollerball I've ever used. It's smooth, and puts down a dark line that's closer to a medium nib (the other rollerballs are more like fines):

Writing comparison of Monteverde Engage, Noodler's Nib Creaper Rollerball, and J. Herbin Rollerball

The writing experience with the Monteverde is quite nice, not entirely perfect, though. I did feel a little movement of the rollerball mechanism in the pen as I wrote (where the tip was moving a bit side-to-side, hitting the inside of the end of the pen's grip section....it didn't move in or out of the pen as I wrote). This wasn't too bad though, certainly not a deal breaker; it's just something I wanted to mention. Because the pen is a click, the fact the tip moves in and out of the pen means the potential for a little movement is there. I haven't felt it on every Engage I've tied, but I did feel it on this particular pen.

The pen is a pretty good size, not insanely large but it has to fit that whole nib unit with the standard international converter in there, so it can only be so small. I must say, though it's considerably more expensive than the other pens below, it certainly feels justified because of the design, fit and finish, and additional features (like the stylus) that it has.

Monteverde One-Touch Engage Refillable Rollerball, carbon fiber with rose-gold trim

J. Herbin Rollerball (cartridge) pen

Noodler's Nib Creaper Refillable Rollerball Pen

Another nice thing about the pen is that it has replaceable rollerball tips. They're much more expensive than the tips for the Noodler's rollerball (the J. Herbin doesn't have replaceable tips, you need to buy a whole new pen), but at least they're there if you need them:

Monteverde Engage Rollerball Tip

All-in-all, the One-Touch Engage is one very unique and beautiful pen. It writes wetter and broader than any refillable rollerball pen I've used before, and the stylus is just plain cool. If you're in the market for one of these it'll set you back around $88, which is certainly no small change. But, it's not the most expensive rollerball out there for sure, and for what it is I think it's worth a look.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Flip That Nib!

Have you ever tried flipping over your pen to write with the nib upside down? It's not always ideal, but it can work well if you need to write really small or if you have super-absorbent paper that you want to write on without it feathering and bleeding like crazy. It's not always an amazing writing experience, it's usually a little scratchy and you have to write a little slower and with a lighter hand than normal, but it works in a pinch if you need to write really smal. 

Have you ever tried flipping your nib? 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mailbox Monday #19

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

Hi Brian: I have a couple of boxes of pilot cartridges and have noticed that some have the tiny metal ball in them and some don't (for whatever reason). I can see the point of having the ball in there, but is it absolutely necessary? Just curious.
Honestly, I have no explanation why some have the metal ball and some don't. The ball acts as an agitator, to keep the ink mixed well just like the paint in an aerosol can. But most other brands of ink cartridges don't have this ball inside and they do just fine. It definitely isn't 'necessary' to have this ball.
Has Nathan Tardif ever hinted at making the new "Noodler's"-style eyedropper pens (like you showcased with the newer bottles of Nikita ink) available for separate sale? Any chance that some might happen to "come available", so to speak?
He's asked me about it before and I told him there would be a demand for it, but he's told me his supply of them is uncertain. I don't know that he will ever make them available apart from Borealis Black, Dragon's Napalm, and Nikita. I highly doubt they'll be sold separately.
My email is to ask if you foresee any more Rohrer & Klingner - limited edition Blau Schwarz ink coming your way? If not I was going to ask if you had a half used bottle you would like to sell or know where I could get some of this limited ed ink.
Unfortunately, we're fresh out at the moment! We don't have any, we didn't even make any available for samples because it was so limited. We only had it in for a few days, I was expecting it to be around longer than that. After talking to Rohrer and Klingner about how quickly we sold out, they had some 'reserve' stock they were holding that they're going to send our way (along with spare boxes to replace any damaged in shipping), so we should have those again here in the next week or two. After that though, it really will be gone for good.
For reasons I don’t recall, when I ordered my wonderful Ahab Flex Nib Piston Fill Fountain pen, I also acquired Private Reserve Invincible Black ink, which I used in the pen. I find now that the ink seems to have clogged the pen, and I noticed that maybe I should be using Noodler's ink instead (I know, sounds kind of obvious, sorry). Browsing your site, I see that Noodler’s black looks like a candidate.

So, several questions: what does the “bulletproof” term connote, it looks like that ink will perform alright with respect to watercolor, if I leave enough drying time --- is that right?, was I wrong to use the Private Reserve in the Ahab, and what is the best use for Private Reserve...I liked its quality when I used it.

I'm sorry to hear this ink isn't flowing so well in your Ahab! The first thing I'm going to ask is how long has it been in your pen, and when's the last time you've cleaned it? I think if you cleaned it out and filled it again (with the PR ink) you'd find a significant improvement in its flow. I have a video on pen maintenance here.

Bulletproof is a Noodler's term for fraud resistant, which means it's impenetrable to known forms of removal by check washers. It means waterproof, UV resistant, and bleach resistant. Here's a list of all the Noodler's inks and their properties. The way that Noodler's waterproof inks achieve their permanence is by cellulose reaction. This means that the ink needs to actually penetrate to the cellulosic fibers of the paper (either cotton or wood pulp) to permanently bond. Once this happens, you can wash over it, but before then the ink is still sitting on the surface of the paper and can be washed away. The only time there is really a problem with washing over Noodler's inks is when you're using it on heavily sized paper (like watercolor paper).

If you do need to use heavily sized watercolor paper, then you may prefer to go with a pigmented fountain pen ink instead of a cellulose reactive ink to be able to wash over it. These inks have small pigments in the ink, so that when it dries, those pigments bond on top of the paper, so the issue of absorbency is no longer a factor. Pigmented inks are a little harder to clean out of your pens and are generally more expensive, but they do the trick. They were originally designed for brush pens, but can be used successfully in fountain pens as long as you make sure not to let the ink dry in your pen (it's hard to clean when that happens!). The Pigmented inks we carry include: Platinum Carbon Black, Platinum Pigmented Blue, Platinum Pigmented Sepia, Platinum Pigmented Rose Red, Sailor Kiwa-Guro (Nano) Black, and Sailor Sei-Boku (Nano) Blue-Black.

You didn't make the wrong decision to put the PR ink in your Ahab, and I'm willing to bet that cleaning it out will make it flow well again. It may just be that using this ink in this pen requires a regular cleaning regimen, and once you figure out how often that is you'll be in good shape.
I have been looking at both the TWSBI Vac700 and also the Monteverde Invincia Deluxe. I know that you have received a shipment of some Monteverde pens a couple of weeks ago and I was just wondering which pen you prefer, the TWSBI or the Monteverde. Both are cool to me because the TWSBI filling mechanism is really cool and I have always loved the look of carbon fiber that is in the Monteverde so I was just wondering your opinion on the pens and also their nibs. Also, I like the line width that the Lamy fine nib makes so if I were to get one of these pens, which nib size would you recommend for each pen so that it would be a close match to the Lamy fine nib.
Hmmmm....this is a bit of a toughie. Both pens have some serious cool factor going on, with both design and functionality. The thing the VAC-700 has going for it is ink capacity, it's much greater than the Monteverde. But, it's a new model of pen and TWSBI is still tweaking the ink flow, so I don't know how the new VAC-700's coming in will write. The Monteverdes do write a little better and wetter than the first batch of VAC-700's, that I know. Both pens are a little on the heavier and larger side, and their both a little more comfortable writing unposted because of their size and heft.

As far as the nib size, they're both going to have a line width pretty close to Lamy, so I'd recommend a fine for either. The VAC-700 doesn't write quite as dark, but again this may be fixed with the newer pens: 

My apply green Lamy Safari is malfunctioning. The broad nib slips off...it is like it is not attached to anything. Is there anything I can do to correct this?
One of two things is happening, either your nib is just a little too wide to fit tightly onto the feed, or there's something wrong with the feed where it was manufactured too narrow on the wings where it holds the nib. Do you have any other Lamy nibs to try to put on it? If you have one,  try putting it on the pen. If that one is also loose, then it's the feed's problem and we can swap out the pen for you. I greatly suspect though that it's that your broad nib is just a little too wide. The good thing is, that's pretty easy to fix. Basically, you just need to take the nib off the pen and squeeze it on both sides (at the wings, the wide end of the nib), like in the picture:
You can probably just do it squeezing firmly with your fingers, but if you need to you can use a pair of pliers (carefully) with something like a rubber band or something like that to protect the pliers from scratching the nib. Just be careful if you use pliers, it would be easy to go too far. Let me know if this is something you're comfortable trying, I'm about 95% certain that this will fix your problem. (it did!)
im from germany and i really like your videos but i got one question: i bought a kaweco sport pen and really love it (i had a lot of lamy safaris before) but the kaweco is more for my notes and stuff so want a bigger pen witch i can fill up with bottled ink. when i looked in the web i found the lamy studio. I like it a lot but i have a problem with the crome thing on the front. i found that the silver one has the finger thing in black. So can i buy the pen from your shop in black but with the black finger thing (sorry i don't know the real word but i mean the part were the fingers go) or do you know good alternatives to the studio in the same price range???
Unfortunately, the Stainless Steel Lamy Studio is the only one that has that black rubber grip section (that's what the front thing is technically called), all of the other ones have chrome ones. I personally LOVE the black rubber, and really wish Lamy would put it on their other pens, as it's much more comfortable and makes the pen far easier to hold for long periods of time. As it is for right now though, we can't buy the black rubber grip sections separately and swap them out on the pens, so they only come as they are. However, Lamy USA (which is the Lamy US distributor) does sell the piece separately here. I doubt it's very practical or economical for you to buy it through them, but perhaps since Lamy is in Germany, there might be a way to buy Lamy parts where you are? I just figure if we have them here in the US, it would only make sense if you could find them in Germany!

An alternative to the black Lamy Studio could be the Sheaffer 300, the Monteverde Invincia, the Lamy Al-Star, or the TWSBI 540. I have and love all of these pens : )

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling this coming week's emails into next week's Mailbox Monday post!

Friday, July 13, 2012

FP101- Nib Sizes and Grinds

Fountain pens look cool, but what matters most is how they write. The most important factor that affects your writing is the nib, specifically the tip of the nib that touches the paper. Fountain pens nib tips come in different sizes and shapes, so I wanted to cover the basics of fountain pens nib sizes.

In this Nib Sizes and Grinds video, I cover:

Stub, Cursive Italic, Crisp Italic, and Oblique Nib Grinds

There are certainly more nib grinds out there, but these cover about 99% of what's available from modern pen manufacturers. Custom nib meisters will have more options for making more specialty nibs, but this info should help to get you started enjoying your fountain pen hobby. 

If you have any questions or feedback, I'd love to hear it in the comments below! See the other Fountain Pen 101 videos here.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sneak Peek: Lamy Studio Royal Red

Lamy Studio Royal Red, 14k

Lamy is coming out with a new Studio with a 14k gold nib, called Royal Red. Personally, I think the color is borderline red at best, it's really more of a coppery-orange color. It's really nice looking, I just think the name might give an impression that it's more red than it really is. It's not expected to arrive until mid-October, so it's a ways off, but I had the chance to take a picture of one and jumped on it. This will be a really nice color for a fall pen.

The price is going to be the same as the other Studios with 14k nibs in extra-fine, fine, medium, and broad for $195 list (we plan to offer it at $156 like we do the other Studios).

Lamy Studio Royal Red, posted

Lamy Studio Royal Red, takes Lamy cartridges or a Lamy Z24 converter (included)

Lamy Studio Royal Red with the classic Studio 'propeller' clip

Lamy Studio Royal Red, I busted out some apple potpourri for this one ;) 

The nib is Lamy's 14k nib, which write incredibly smooth and wet. I really love their gold nibs.

Nib Nook writing sample of the Lamy 14k nibs.

Even though it'll be a ways off, I knew pics of these would leak sooner than later. It's not often I get to be the first to show something, so I jumped on the chance as soon as Lamy gave me the okay :) I'd love to hear what you think of the new color!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wed. Review- Platinum 3776 Extra Fine Nibs

As I recently learned, Platinum has decided to revive some of their nibs from the past, and I suspect it will excite a lot of you. Japanese nibs are usually finer than their European counterparts anyway, so they tend to be the choice for anyone who likes fine nibs. Previously, the finest Platinum has regularly offered their nibs in a fine nib width. But, what we have here is something exciting, three new nibs!

These are the three new nibs I test in the video:

  • Platinum 3776 Black Century Soft Fine, a semi-flex nib with a line variation from about fine-broad
  • Platinum 3776 Black Century Extra Fine, which is quite thin be surprisingly smooth
  • Platinum 3776 Ultra Extra Fine, which is the thinnest nib I've ever used, and is smooth considering how thin it writes

I don't know to what degree these nibs will be available ongoing, I know there are limited numbers of them arriving in the US right now. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some of these pens (especially the UEF!), so I wanted to share my experience with you. Here's a writing comparison with a Lamy Al-Star extra-fine and TWSBI 540 extra-fine:

Platinum 3776 fine nib writing comparison to TWSBI and Lamy extra-fine nibs, done on Rhodia 80g dot pad paper with Noodler's Black.

It's funny that the soft fine nib seems so fat compared to all these others! The dots on the paper are spaced 5mm apart, if that gives you any reference. I can say, the lines we're looking at here are quite thin, all of them. The Lamy extra-fine was surprisingly close to the Platinum extra-fine, though as some of you have experienced the consistency of the Lamy EF nibs can sometimes waver, I mean it is a $12.50 nib. The end result is close, but the Platinum nib is a whole different writing experience, writing so much smoother. The TWSBI wrote much nicer, similar to the Platinum but just a bit wider on the paper. The Platinum ultra-extra-fine is definitely the thinnest nib, and flows surprisingly consistent for such a fine nib. I honestly enjoy all of these nibs, as much as I can anyway (I'm kind of a stub-junky!). 

My conclusion: bravo Platinum! Thank you for offering these nibs again, I hope to see them regularly! I would love to see you expand into the 3776 Bourgogne, that would be amazing. These Black Century models are beautiful though, I really like the improvements made over the old 3776 design, particularly with the cap insert that seals the nib so it won't dry out for a year. I know the Century 3776's deserve their own full review, and I'm working on that. 

Platinum 3776 Black Century, available in extra-fine, soft fine, fine, medium, and broad.

One thing to note, Platinum has released the next 3776 limited edition pen, the Shoji with a soft-fine nib like you see here. There won't be an extra-fine on it, unfortunately, but you'll see it in soft-fine, fine, medium, and broad. This pen is yet another that warrants its own video, but it's worth mentioning here since it's the same body style and nibs that I use in the video.

Platinum 3776 Century 'Shoji' Limited Edition, available in soft-fine, fine, medium, and broad.

I'm very eager to see what the extra-fine nib aficionados think of these nibs once they get them in their hands, I for one am impressed. I'd love to hear what you think, let me know in the comments!

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