Review – Poquitos Part 2 – Monteverde Ballpoint/Stylus and Fountain Pen

I had the regular Yafa brand Poquitos for quite some time before ever even hearing about the brand Monteverde, which is one of the many brands of “inexpensive” luxury pens that Yafa owns. Monteverde mainly has their own line of pens that could be completely separated from Yafa, but recently I discovered Monteverde was releasing a set of pens under the same name and similarly styled to the Yafa Poquito. This, of course, confused me, until I found out the companies’ relationship. The two Monteverde Poquitos have both similarities and differences when compared to the regular Yafa versions. Let’s take a look.

20150121-234835.jpg

First up is the fountain pen, which is styled very similarly to the original Poquito, but because it is a fountain pen, it is slightly larger, a little longer, and about twice as thick. The tip of the cap has the same “stylus” as on the smaller pens, and the clip is almost identical. The pen is also made of brass, but seems to be painted better, and Poquito is written right on the cap.

Being a fountain pen, it accepts cartridges (of the standard international variety), but there are no converters designed for it. Some small converters can be finagled into working, but none are advertised as doing so. The nib (which is only available in medium) and feed are relatively dry, but that is the case with many pens with similar nib and feed types (plastic, iridium point, German made) and many inks are designed to work well with this type of pen. The section is stainless steel (I think) and gets slick upon prolonged use. And the pen is too short to hold comfortably without posting. But the pen is still super small, and is absolutely ideal for taking quick notes provided one finds an ink that works well with it.

20150121-234842.jpg

In addition to their release of the fountain pen, Monteverde also released a new version of the regular ballpoint Poquito, called the Poquito Stylus (and funnily enough, they also released the Poquito Stylus XL which is almost the size of the Largo). The pen has the same writing and mechanism end as the Yafa Poquito (which is the only part that the Poquitos share). But on the other end, a touch-screen stylus of average size replaces the old hard “stylus” point, which was really useless. This new stylus works quite well, though it can be a bit broad at times. The clip design has also changed. It works just as well, and looks a little nicer, in my opinion, but is more likely to damage the item it is clipped onto. The ballpoint itself is identical to the older pen, with refills being the same.

Overall, the Monteverde versions of the Poquito pens are quite small, and quite functional. They haven’t really fixed any of the problems with the standard Yafa versions, but the added benefits of a fountain pen and stylus (for the people that like to use them) are great. All of the Poquitos are hardy little pens that serve well, and can go almost anywhere. The Monteverde versions just add a little more style and a little more usage variation.

 

Advertisements

Comparison – Pilot Varsity Old vs New

If you’re looking for a fountain pen but don’t want to purchase something expensive or something you have to fiddle with, then a disposable fountain pen might be the way for you to go. And If you’ve tried before with the most common disposable fountain pen, the Pilot Varsity, and are looking to get another one, you may have seen the slight changes they’ve made to the design. Are these changes that big a deal? Well, let’s find out.

20140613-003203.jpg

The Pilot Varsity has a simple cylindrical barrel and cap, with nice, simply rounded finials. Printed on the barrel is “Pilot Varsity” and a design, but no further information. Both pens have this printed on them. While the old design is straight lines on a tasteful silver with a tiny ink window, the newer version features a multi-tone diamond pattern with a worked in, barley visible, ink window. The cap has a cheap plastic clip with a ball on the end that does tolerably, but is far from the best. Just don’t turn yourself upside down with this pen in your pocket. Taking off the cap reveals the clear section and the plastic feed. One can see if there is ink in the feed, but not in the barrel except through quasi-ink-windows printed in the design. The feed is simple, and has a wick, which allows for better ink flow, but would not be ideal for cleaning (which you wouldn’t be doing anyway if you were just going to throw it away.)

20140613-003210.jpg

The nib at the end of the pen is again simple. It is stamped “Pilot <M>” (medium) and has no further ornamentation, not even a breather hole. It is stainless steel, and offers no flexibility in the tines. Now, one might think that since they’re both stamped medium, that both pens would have roughly the same line width; and this would strangely be wrong. At least on the example I have, the older Varsity has a line more akin to a fat medium, or a particularly skinny broad, while the newer example is more of a fat fine, or a sorta skinny medium. If this is indeed a purposeful change that was made, I’m guessing it was for the American market to prevent bleed-through on the extra-crappy paper here, which it does do. This size difference definitely doesn’t affect the nib performance, though. Both nibs are buttery smooth, have no startup issues, and write under no pressure. The ink is the standard Pilot black, and there is nothing different between the two pens that I can discern (and neither are at all waterproof).

So, which one should you get? Well, it really doesn’t matter. If you really want a fat medium nib disposable (well, kinda, you can look up how to refill it online) you can hunt down some of the old ones, which I personally like better due to purely aesthetic reasons. The new one is a bit more loud and silly, and a bit finer in line, but you’d be really hard-pressed to tell that unless you were looking like I was.

Review – Manuscript Calligraphy Scroll 4 Nib

So this week I’ll be doing a quick review of the Scroll 4 calligraphy nib by the Manuscript Pen Company.

20140314-094350.jpg

The scroll nib concept is simple enough: it splits a regular italic nib with a second slit and a notch out of the middle, thus creating two lines when applied to the paper. The Manuscript scroll 4 has this simple design, with “No.4 Scroll England” stamped into it as well.

Writing is much easier than with a standard calligraphy fountain pen nib. The feed seems designed to keep up very well with all kinds of calligraphy nibs. Very little pressure is required to write and may even hinder performance at times. Each line is about a millimeter wide with one being slightly smaller than the other. To write with this nib, one must adjust their calligraphy a little bit but not very much, it is a very easy nib to use, though even with gentle use the small tines get misaligned every now and then, causing them to pop and either momentarily spit a small glob of ink or skip.

Overall this is a fairly nice nib that is well suited to its purpose of calligraphy, and while it doesn’t have many other (if any other) uses, it is still quite fun to play around with sometime, and this particular one doesn’t cost much.

Review – Monsieur Notebook A5 Blank “Fountain Pen” Paper

One way to make your notebook stand out in this new notebook market is to have high-quality components that are durable and look good. Monsieur Notebook has tried to do that, with their new leather notebook competitor to Moleskine.

20140220-232132.jpg

First a little story. Monsieur Notebook has been available in Europe for a little while now, using production from India, if I’m not mistaken. They recently had an Indiegogo campaign to distribute in the U.S. and get more local production (for them in the U.K.). I pledged (purchased) on Indiegogo for two notebooks and got laser engraving thrown in to review.  My notebooks were however caught up somewhere in the delivery process and ended up taking quite some time to get here. During this process I discovered that the customer service is very nice and expedient for being across an ocean from me. Anyway, some time later I have an extra notebook for my troubles and am getting on the review track. I should note that these books were sent to me directly and not through a distributor, so they did get a bit damaged in the post because they were not in a box, this will not happen if you simply order a book from them.

20140220-232137.jpg

The notebooks are a nice A5 size, a bit wider than a Moleskine. With 100 sheets of “royal executive bond” (100gsm) paper (that’s what the watermark says anyway). The cover is leather, and comes quite dry, so it will need some maintenance to make it more supple. The cover is completely plain (unless laser engraved) save for a tiny logo on the back in the right bottom corner. The cover sticks out from the pages just a bit to provide them some protection. There is an elastic band on the back that is loose when not in use like a Moleskine but tightly closes the book when necessary. The cover is glued to some heavy cardstock and opening the front reveals another logo with a website and a contents page with a place for a name and other information. There are no other features, this includes the conspicuous absence of a back pocket common to these types of books.

20140220-232143.jpg

Now to the paper, which in mine is blank, and meant for fountain pens. The promise of being fountain pen-friendly is a bold one, and one that is almost thoroughly lived up to. The paper is a very stark, almost perfect, white (with a watermark as previously mentioned). It has a bit of a grain to it, so it provides some feedback when writing, but it isn’t unpleasant. It is a bonded paper, so some paper fibers may come up and clog nibs on fountain pens after extended use, but that is only a fountain pen concern. As for writing, it’s smooth, with some feedback. There are very few inconsistant places that would cause hang ups, or strange ink behaviors. Bleed-through for liquid inks is minimal, but it is there, the paper seems to take wide spaces of ink in stride (like calligraphy) and has little to no bleed-through. But a pen that is quite wet with a finer line will make points of bleed-through. A similar phenomenon can be noted with feathering, as finer lines tend to feather more on this paper than broader lines. Which is a strange property indeed. But the overall experience is pleasant. The ink dries friarly fast, with some notable exceptions (Noodler’s red)

20140220-232148.jpg

So a few more things to note. The spine is good leather and doesn’t seem to take structural damage but does easily take cosmetic. The Laser engraving is awesome but it really depends on your image. The elastic strap could cosmetically damage the cover by pulling it. And occasionally the signatures seem to be pulling away from each other, but not the spine.

So overall I think this is a great notebook. It is made of high quality materials, if not high production quality. The materials seem to be good enough to make up for the shoddy construction and make a stable book that will work quite well for an extended amount of time. It is one of the best fountain pen paper notebooks, but not the best. I’d say the paper is worse, but the book itself is better than a Rhodia book. So it all depends on what you want. This book might not look very good, but it should last at least as long if not longer than any other notebook on the market. And it’s the same price as a Moleskine. So If you want a good “beat-up notebook”, try one of these.

Review – Sheaffer Maxi Kit Viewpoint Pen Body

I have talked a lot about specialty pens and the like. Now it’s time to talk about another one, this one specifically for calligraphy. In this several part review I’ll be talking about the Sheaffer Calligraphy Maxi-kit. In this first part I’ll talk about the included pens, the Sheaffer Viewpoint.

20140122-004518.jpg

The cap of the Viewpoint is a cylinder with a slanted top. This slant has Sheaffer written on it as well as the size of the nib meant to go with the pen (in this kit at least). The bottom of the cap has a chrome band with Sheaffer written on it. The clip is simple, but functional, having a small ball at the end, up near the top is also the white dot that signifies a lifetime Sheaffer warranty (possibly).

20140122-004528.jpg

The barrel of the pen is also a simple cylinder, except it has a rather large hole cut in two sides to create a viewing area for the cartridge or converter (get it). The barrel’s end is also rounded so it won’t stand up.

The (grip) section is made of dimpled rubber and is sufficiently grippy and un-intrusive. Just after the grip is a small piece of plastic (color matching the barrel) and then the nib directly. There is a rather steep step to nib from the section, making the nib look perhaps a bit small. The feed is well hidden and works fine for the purpose, but on some pens can be finicky.

Overall the Sheaffer Viewpoint body is a sturdy, and functional design, even if it’s not the most comfortable. Its real purpose is to get a nib to the paper and it does the job quite well. Though it is a bit weaker than previous Sheaffer models due to the hole.

Review – Bic Disposable Fountain Pen Black

If you’re an artist or would like to become one you’ve probably heard that ballpoints are not a good art instrument. While this is not the case, there certainly are better ones. Fountain pens are generally accepted to give a better writing performance than ballpoints. And the Bic disposable fountain pen seeks to combine the smoothness of one with the convenience of the other.

20131204-001320.jpg

The body of the pen is a smooth torpedo in the classic fountain pen shape, though a little smaller. The cap has an easy-to-use clip attached solidly to the top that is both sturdy and tight. There is a partial ink window and logos along the otherwise silver-colored barrel, nothing else. Taking off the cap and looking at the (grip) section, the feed(er) is viewable though a clear tube. The section is much thicker than a ballpoint and easy to grip, though it may become slippery and has no lip at the end. The nib (tip) is steel and ground to a medium point. It is unspectacular looking.

20131204-001340.jpg

As for writing, it is very good. Most of the money you pay likely went into the nib and it shows. The pen writes smooth and effortlessly for the most part, but can be prone to feedback. The flow of the ink is good and it keeps up well. Speaking of the ink, it is surprisingly black, and unsurprisingly not waterproof. This ink will feather easily and take a moment to dry. I also don’t recommend using cheap paper, as the ink will bleed thorough, though not as bad as many bottled inks. There is a massive supply of the ink, though, so you won’t have to worry about this pen breaking your wallet particularly.

For a cheap pen ($2-4 a pen), this is a very nice one with a lot of okay ink. It writes well and draws the same. If you’re looking to experiment with fountain pens in your art or writing, and would prefer a slightly larger pen, this is certainly one to look up.

Review – Noodler’s Nib Creeper Flex Pen

Fountain pens don’t particularly lend themselves to art. That’s more in the realm of brush and dip pens. But for the more artistically inclined fountain pen users, there are flex pens. Though most examples are ludicrously expensive, Noodler’s Ink brand has several flex pens at a reasonable price. Let’s see how the Noodler’s Nib Creeper Flex holds up to scrutiny.

20130704-232129.jpg

The one I personally have at hand is a plain black one. They come in all sorts of wonderful colors and you should really look into them if you’re thinking about buying one. The black itself is quite nice, though shiny enough that scratches are noticeable. The trim is a nice metal, not sure on the specifics but also shiny. The clip says “Noodler’s Ink” and rotates on the cap; it also does a very good job of holding the pen in a pocket. In the middle of the pen there are a few semi-transparent windows with which you can view your ink volume, though they are not the most accurate things. The cap unscrews to reveal more of the same design to the nib. Both the body and the cap are made of a nice plastic, which feels a little too light and smells a bit. But it is quite sturdy and the smell does subside.

The pen fills nicely by twisting the back all the way out and then down several times (to eliminate as much air as possible) while the nib is immersed in ink. The plunger mechanism unfortunately doesn’t come out like several other Noodler’s pens, or at least not easily. But the nib and feed can be removed simply by gripping them in the mid-section and pulling them out as they are friction fit into the pen. This allows for easy customization of the ink flow. It also allows for easier cleaning when changing inks.

Now to the nib and the actual writing. On paper the nib is wonderfully smooth. Not as smooth as a nice Cross or something similar, but up there. It flexes when pushed down, though not very easily. It does require some force, and at times feels like it may have problems, though these have never materialized for me. The thickness of the line varies depending on the nib and feed configuration. I would say it goes from about a Micron 01 (005 if you go really, really light) to just over a Micron 08 or about the size of the Micron Brush. After that it starts to railroad (split into two lines) even in the wettest of configurations. It also tends to write fairly dry, having a faster ink drying time and less bleed-though than other pens. But this is only minimal.

20130704-232148.jpg

Overall this is a very nice pen. If you’re looking for a sturdy brush replacement or just something to add some variation to drawings it may be the thing for you. For me it strains my had a little, and I prefer less variation in my line, which limits my use for it. But it is still a superb little pen, and a very good value. It can also double as a fancy signing pen, and a note pen. Just something to carry around. It’s great, and if you’re looking for a flex pen it’s definitely the place to start.