Monday, September 17, 2012

Mailbox Monday #26

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:

This week I plan to order a Lamy nib or two and some stationery. But could you first give me some advice?

The nib(s) will be for a Safari, now fitted with a M nib. But, further into the future, I may be interested in a Lamy 2K. I know the 2K nibs are nothing like the Safari nibs, being gold rather than steel, to take just one point of difference. But have you found any correspondence in width between the 2K and the Safari nibs. Does a 2K F write at about the same width as a Safari F? A 2K XF the same width as a Safari XF? If yes, then I'd know which Safari nib(s) to order to get an idea of the nib I might eventually order for a 2K. Your Nib Nook tool is wonderful, but it doesn't quite resolve these questions for me.

Also, I might try a calligraphy nib for the first time. Are the Lamy calligraphy nibs essentially stubs? Do the widths--1.1., 1.5, 1.9--correspond in any way with EF, F, M, etc.?

The Lamy 2000 is going to write just a little bit broader/wetter than the Lamy steel nibs. The 2000 is an entirely different nib design and I don't know if they intend it to match exactly to their steel nib sizes, you'd imagine that they would. I think that the nib itself is about the same size, but because it's a different nib/feed the flow is a little different, and it writes a little wetter/broader than the steel nibs do. It's not as drastic as the 14k nibs that fit the more expensive Studios and Accents (the gold nibs that are shaped like the steel nibs), but there is a difference. If you like the Lamy fine steel nib, then I'd recommend considering the Lamy 2000 extra-fine. I think part of the reason it writes a little wetter is that the gold nib is softer than steel and allows for some flexibility when put under pressure, so when an individual (like me) writes with somewhat of a heavy hand, then the Lamy 2000 writes wetter, where the steel nib would normally maintain its rigidity.

And for the Lamy calligraphy nibs, yeah, they're stubs. I actually don't know of a single pen company that ships 'true' (crisp) italic nibs with their pens, that's something you have to have done custom. The italic nib sizes don't really correspond at all to the other steel nibs. The 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9 designations are the measurement of the width of the nib's tip, so the higher the number, the wider it goes. I want to say the broad nib is somewhere around .9mm wide.
Do you have any thoughts on choosing between a Namiki Falcon and a Platinum “Maki-e?” I have a Sailor 1911 Mid-size, which I love, and am considering getting a second Japanese pen. I’ve read that these two write similarly – is that your experience? Any pros, cons, personal preference? The Platinum is certainly a prettier pen, but I think I’d like to get the pen I’ll have the most fun writing with.
Hmm....tough choice! Both pens have flexible nibs, though I'd say the Falcon probably flexes a little further than the Platinum Maki-e, mainly because of the nib design. I personally enjoy both pens (I have one of each in my collection), and I find that they both write well. Both pens are light and pretty thin. I would say that if I HAD to choose one, it would be the Platinum. Both pens write comparably, but the Platinum pens are just so much more attractive to me, especially the Kanazawa Leaf ones!
I have to confess, I have a terrible handwriting that I’m trying to correct it with italic so I was wondering if an italic nib would improve my handwriting "further" since I tend to write with an heavy hand, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to have some "thins" in my HW. 

To give some information, I like bigger and heavier pen, I tested recently the Waterman Expert and I found it pretty good, but a little "light" for me, interestingly, I also tested a Montblanc Meistertuck and found it ... below the waterman which is odd (tbh I was utterly disappointed since I heard nothing but good press on it).

I did a little research and it seem there is basically three brand that carry italics pen (contradict me if I’m wrong), Lamy, TWSBI and Monteverde. I don’t really like the design of Lamy, so it boils down to the TWSBI 540 clear (if I’m correct the other colors don’t have the italic nibs, right ?) and the Monteverde Invicia Color Fusion.

What do you think could be a good pen ? Do you have any other pen beside italic one I should check ? (I prefer "classic" or "retro" design, I’m not very modern for that kind of thing ...)

I'm glad you like my videos! Personally, I LOVE italic nibs, for the exact reason that you're looking to use them. My handwriting isn't awesome, I mean it's okay but nothing to brag about. So when I want to make my writing look a little fancier/cleaner, I immediately pick up an italic nib pen and it looks better, without me really having to change much of anything! I personally have every italic nib we carry in my own pen collection, and I use them often. The 3 you mentioned are all good, the Lamy is the cheapest and sometimes not always a smooth as the others, but it's good for just trying out an italic nib and for having something to carry around that's not a big deal to damage/lose. The TWSBI 1.1mm italic is a great pen, I highly recommend it. We don't always have them in stock, partly because the supply of the tends to be kind of limited, and also partly because people like them and keep buying them up : ) The TWSBI italic nib is smooth, and even a little soft/springy so it writes with a good bounce to it if you have a heavy hand like me. The Monteverde stubs (another term for italic, basically) are also great, I am a big fan of them. They're smooth, flow well, and are pretty stiff so they're a little bit different than the TWSBI. The pens are hefty, large in diameter and a bit on the heavy side. I like that about them, actually.

There are a couple of other pens to point out that you didn't mention:

Pelikan Script: This pen is pretty cheap and I HATE The design of the body with the stupid pointy end, but it's actually a pretty nice writing pen for what you pay. I'd definitely consider one of these since they're so cheap.

Pilot Parallel: This is a pretty bizarre looking pen that I also think looks pretty ridiculous, but like the Pelikan Script, writes amazingly well for the money. The neatest thing about the Parallel (besides the ink mixing trick you can do with it), is the nib sizes...if you want to do any kind of calligraphy, you can get up to a 6.0mm wide nib! Crazy!

Platinum Music Pen: This pen is just awesome....it's pretty light and a little small for my hands, but I put up with it because it is the smoothest italic nib I've ever used. It's the most expensive of any of these pens here, but worth it if you like this type of pen. I wouldn't jump to this pen first, but maybe put it on your radar if you find that you really like writing with italic nibs. This pen has a very classic design.
Hello Brian! I am a grade 11 student who is just starting in the fountain pen world and was wondering, is there a good notebook or something of the sort that could fit in a binder? I would really love to use my pen at school and don't feel like using super cheap garbage paper to write on. :)
I think it's awesome you care about your paper! I will admit, the selection for good notebooks for students is pretty limited, fountain pens aren't exactly booming in popularity in schools today! At least not in the US, in Europe they're more common, but they use different size notebooks than we do. Clairefontaine does make one notebook though that I think would fit the bill for you, right here. It's side-wirebound, 3-hole punched, has perforated pages, and is American sized. Black n' Red is another brand that I've heard has good paper (I don't carry those), I know they make a wire bound version but I'm not sure if it's 3-hole punched or not...
I enjoy your videos very much. I'm one of the 10% of ppl who are left-handed. I like the idea of writing with a fountain pen, but is it practical for people like myself who drag the side of their hand over what they just wrote? Have you come across this problem before, and if so, what would you recommend?
Smearing is definitely a problem for lefty fountain pen users, and is something to work around. There are two ways to go about it: 1) find the right pen/ink/paper combination to minimize the risk of smearing, focusing on fast drying, or 2) adjust your hand/paper position so you don't rub your hand over your writing. Neither method is particularly easy, and which you prefer will depend a lot on your own writing style and how comfortable you are writing in different positions. If you just absolutely can't write without smearing your hand over your writing, then you'll be on the hunt for the fastest drying ink/pen/paper combo out there, and it can be a bit limiting in terms of what nib sizes and ink colors you can enjoy.

I've actually been considering putting together a Fountain Pen 101 video on left-handed fountain pen tips, I've been emailing with some folks who are left-handed to get a good idea what's going on. I have some key points already: putting less ink on the page is good, try for faster drying inks, smaller nib sizes are better, more absorbent paper is better, holding position is critical (and may need some serious practice to adjust to prevent smearing). The point of this video for me will be to give some basic guidance to beginner lefty pen users, just so they can be aware of what key things they need to figure out with their writing style.
What is your favorite fountain pen and why?
My favorite fountain pen? I have to choose one? ;) I have a LOT of pens that I really like, and all for different reasons, but to me it's really about how they write. And I've used and been around enough pens to know that one pen can write very differently for one person than another, there are a lot of variables. So when I say what MY favorite is, it doesn't mean its the best pen, but just the one that I find myself pickup up time and time again, ahead of all the others. And that would be my blue Pilot Custom 74 with a medium nib. I love blue, the overall design of the pen isn't my absolute favorite but I do find it attractive, and I do like the ink capacity of the pen. But the way it writes, something about it just clicks with me. It's smooth, flows well, and the size and length of the pen is just perfectly suited for my large hand with lanky fingers.
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!


  1. This is what I use for school:


    It's perfect for me.

  2. Brian, how would you compare the custom 823 with custom 74 if they both had medium nibs? Thanks for the blog update. I eagerly await new entries :)

  3. Brian, how would you compare the custom 823 with the custom 74 if both had medium nibs? Thanks for your opinion. Cheers!

  4. I have both pens in a medium nib, actually. They're very similar, but the 823 writes just a bit wetter, I find. It's a subtle difference though. Both nibs are a little finer than most Western medium nibs like you find on Lamy and Pelikan.

  5. Many thanks for replying. Do you find cleaning the filling mechanism for the 823 more tedious?

  6. As a followup to the Lamy 2000 nib sizes, how do the 14k Studio nibs compare? I can't find much in the way of reviews online. I use F and EF nibs on my Al-Stars and am wondering if an EF 14k Studio nib is comparable. I've got my eye on that royal red limited edition coming up...

  7. Do both lines of Platinum maki-e have a some give/flex to the nibs, or just the Kanazawas? I have had my eye on that phoenix but worried about the nib being rigid.

    1. Have some, not have a some... darn auto correct :)

    2. Yes, the nibs are actually exactly the same on both pens, the only difference is that the body of the Kanazawa Leaf pens has a little fancier Maki-e finish. Everything else about the pens is identical.

  8. The 14k 'normal' Lamy nibs (non-2000) write a little wetter than the steels, I've found. They are smooooooooooooooth though, my goodness they write nice. I love them.

  9. Yeah, the 823 is a vacuum fill pen, so it's more of a pain to clean. At least with the Custom 74 you can pull the converter out and clean it, flush the nib unit with a bulb syringe. Not so on the 823, so I just don't change colors in it often.

  10. Also, the nib on the 823 is bigger...physically. It's a #6 size, the Custom 74 is a smaller #5 size. Not a big deal, but just letting you know.

  11. Brian you have a great site, very informative. I'm a lefty and have used a fountain pen all my life (beginning in 5th grade) and in general, have not had a problem with smearing. When I have, it was with very slow-drying ink (not naming any names). To me, the biggest disappointment with being a lefty is that dip pens and flexible nibs are just not suitable, as they need to be pulled across the paper.

  12. Hello Brian! Great Work. Competent,non-diplomatic & unbiased answers & comments as
    against the 2-handed (on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand) one usually gets.

    My Q is: I recently put Caran d'Ache Carbon ink in my Starwalker using a FC convertor.
    As against my fear, it is doing just as well, I mean it is doing as smooth as the PR Velvet Black my MB previously had. But is it going to clog my pen if I do not use it often &
    should I be flushing the pen every time give it a fresh ink fill of CdA Carbon?
    Is it damaging to the pen if left unused for a few months?
    Further, CdA was supposed to be darker than PR Velvet Black, but it IS not.
    My S T DuPont writes darker black in PR-VB than Carbon in MB-SW.
    Both pens have a M Nib still Olympio seems M Plus.

  13. Meant for teachers of young Left handers, and would probably require a huge rewiring of an adult brain. Sharing it anyway (From http://briem.net/):

    One of his PDFs has some different information I believe, but I couldn't find it again. Hope it helps someone. It is really a site on better writing and specifically italic writing. Wish someone taught me this kind of penmanship when i was younger and more impressionable. I'm a righty btw.

  14. Thank you! There are plenty of lefties that enjoy fountain pens. What's really interesting to me is that there is such a wide range of hand positions for left-handed writers, far more than there seems to be with righties. Why is that? I've never once met a righty that is an 'overwriter', y'know? Not accusing anything here, I'm just really curious.

  15. You don't have anything to worry about with these particular inks in your pens, they're just going to require the same maintenance schedule that your other pens and inks would. My general rule is that you clean your pens at least once a month, preferably every 2-3 weeks, if being used with the same ink. If you're going to have the pen sit unused for more than a month, then you should clean it and store it uninked. If you're changing colors, then you clean it no matter how long it's been. That's about it.

    As for the black inks, I'm not surprised to hear that your Velvet Black is darker than CDA Carbon. I've done swabs of both and I find that the PR is a little darker, likely because it is more saturated with dye as most PR inks are. See the attached swab I have.


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