Saturday, March 8, 2014

What I've been up to: Soap & Stuff

I haven't posted anything these last weeks, this is mainly because I've plunged myself head first into a new hobby. It's a very girlish one too: making soap!

Since this isn't "Fight Club" making soap really isn't all that exciting but I've always had a thing for handmade stuff, especially if I made them myself (like my notebooks). I feel that somehow this shares a common background with my fountain pen hobby which both are about making everyday moments (like writing or washing your hands...) very special ones.

Making soap also is all about transforming rather unimpressive raw ingredients (oils, water and crystalline, caustic sodium hydroxide) into a reassuringly firm and smooth something that cleans and conditions your skin at the same time. Also it's a great opportunity to play with scents which is another interest of mine.

Some soap I've made. Doesn't this remind you of a zen like Nakaya in heki-tame? ;)

These are two soaps I've made recently, the first is made of pumpkin kernel oil, coconut and shea butter - the pumpin kernel oil is responsible for the beautiful color which sadly won't last.

This creamy white soap is made of coconut, babassu, peanut and avocado oil and contains a generous amount of sea salt which some skins apparently love and mine obviously does.

Both will have to rest some more weeks though until their pH value has lowered enough to make them gentle enough for everday use.

Don't worry, I won't turn this into a soap blog, just wanted to show you what I'm playing with these days and I'm pretty confident I'll be back to fountain pens in no time!
I hope you're all enjoying the approaching springtime.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bling, bling! Jinhao 650 Pearl

I love mother of pearl in pens! So when a fountain pen friend ordered some of those Jinhaos from China I asked him to get one for me too. There wasn't a lot to read about it beforehand but I still didn't regret the purchase - the pen is far from flawless but the price is hard to beat!

It's a large and heavy model (66 g capped) but fairly usable uncapped (44 g). Cap and barrel are made of metal and covered with black lacquer. The lacquer quality is so-so, mine has had some scratches from the start, but it's alright if you don't look at it too closely.

The section is covered with matte resin, probably in order to improve the grip which isn't too great. My fingers tend to slip towards the nib after writing a few lines.

As you can see the barrel is covered with stripes of white and abalone sea shell. There also seems to be a model with abalone shell only which I would've liked even better. Still it looks pretty (even if slightly on the kitschy side, lol). I would've loved to own that pen as a little girl, I probably would've felt like a princess while doing my homework!

The best part of it: Its two-tone steel nib, reground to cursive italic by Volker (Pen Paradise) and a really, really nice writer. Thanks again, Volker!

How do you like the Jinhao Pearl?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Amber: Graf von Faber Castell's Pen of the Year 2004

Graf von Faber-Castell Pen of the Year 2004

While for a lot of people Faber-Castell seems to be the German pen maker no one ever really thinks of I've been impressed by their Pen of the Year series for a long time. Only a few of them I really like and one of them has taken my breath away: the 2004 version done in amber.

There are six amber rings, cut and fitted by hand and set off with platinum plated rings, cap and end cap.

Graf von Faber-Castell Pen of the Year 2004

There's really not that much more to say about the pen so I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

The amber is deep and rich, like solid sunlight and honey. It is milky white in places and clear gold in others.

Graf von Faber-Castell Pen of the Year 2004

Beautiful to the touch, too.

I know it's just a pen - but it's a beautiful one. I believe I already wrote about how I used to collect minerals. Now strictly speaking amber isn't a mineral but I still did have a few pieces, some with enclosed insects (is this the appropriate phrasing? I couldn't find a proper translation). I've always been fascinated by it. Later when I started to discover incense and fragrances I sometimes used to heat a pin over a candle flame and touch it to my piece of amber so it would issue a unique and aromatic scent.

Of course it's inked and currently filled with Stipula Verde Muschiato. Somehow the murky, muddy green fits the glossy platinum and cheerful amber perfectly. It's fitted with a beautiful, slightly stubbish and perfectly behaving broad nib.

Graf von Faber-Castell Pen of the Year 2004

By the way: Many thanks to Fountain Pen Geeks for recommending my blog as a sunday read and to all others who have been linking and commenting. That was a really nice belated Christmas gift! :)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ink P0rn: Beautiful ink bottles

Since Zeynep from Write to me often! asked me to take a picture of the Octopus ink bottles I've gone through my inks and picked the bottles I like most for pictures. Enjoy!

Stipula Calamo Zafferano
 Sometimes bottles that have had an accident are the most charming. Those Stipula ink bottles are huge and made of brown glass. 

Iroshizuku tsuki-yo
I don't like wasting ink, especially Iroshizuku! But since it can't be made undone, I have to say it's a pretty great way to display the color. 

Octopus Burgunder (new style bottle) and Karamell

Here's two bottles of ink by new German brand Octopus. I like the large, pharmacy-style bottle the most, it's more unique than the Pelikan-ish bottles also used by Kaweco and Standardgraph. As pointed out recently, the bottles are similar but not quite the same! 

Private Reserve Electric DC Blue and Montblanc Ink of Joy.

Crystalizing ink can be annoying but I like the vividly colored sediments some orange inks leave at the bottle threads.

Visconti blue (back) and aquamarine.

Old style Visconti glass ink bottles...! Always make me fear they might topple over while filling a pen... but beautiful. The new plastic ones can't compare, also the blue in the glass bottle is much more vivid then the one in the plastic bottle which is a subtle blue-black. Those two have different sizes, the larger one being their Aquamarine turquoise.
(By the way, I think I love that Florentine pattern more every day. Gorgeous colors. I will show it up closer sometime.)

Octopus Karamell and Pinie

... and some more Octopus bottles! Thanks again to Volker & Christiane for their gift.
Do you recognize the pen in front of them?

Besides: Wishing everyone a very happy New Year full of luck, happiness and good health!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Stipula for Mercury: Francois des Trixhes

Christmas is almost here and between last minute shopping and cleaning the house before our usual holiday journey to one of our parents's homes I've got something special to show: a Stipula for Mercury "Francois de Trixhes" fountain pen in gorgeous grey and blue celluloid. As far as I know it's about 15 years old.

Stipula for Mercury "Francois des Trixhes"

The pen is imprinted "Mercury, Francois de Trixhes" and was limited to 80 pieces. According to Regina Martini, who I bought this from, Stipula manufactured these as well as the "Impero" edition for Tibaldi - which would explain why it's the same celluloid. It's amazing! I've never seen a color like this before, the vivid blue veins are striking, like a black and white picture slowly disintegrating and color bursting through the cracks.

Also this was the first pen where I could actually smell the camphor note of the celluloid by sniffing the cap (though after I knew what to look for I also succeeded in detecting the same smell with some Omas pens). 

The pen is fitted with a rhodium plated Stipula italic which could be somewhat wetter but is nicely soft.

Sadly I have no idea who Francois des Trixhes is which makes me feel somewhat inadequate but can't be helped as google doesn't seem to know him either. Any ideas, anyone?

As is to be expected, the pen is very lightweight (25 g capped, 17 g uncapped) but not overly slim so it sits nicely in your hand. It's filled with converter or cartridges. Once I get the nib to write as I'd like it to I might add a writing sample.

Tom Westerich is selling a Goldfink button filler which he made of this same celluloid so he still seems to have some of it. It looks great and I don't have a button filler yet so I'm severely tempted - the price helps me resist though!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Olive Wood! Graf von Faber-Castell Elemento

I've loved the Elemento since it came out 2 years ago. Lately those have been offered with discounts at some places so I decided time was finally ripe to get one!

Graf von Faber-Castell Elemento

The Elemento introduced their "Intuition: Wood" model which is now also available in Grenadilla, Ebony and Permambucco. The Elemento is a unique edition made of olive wood. You can see the fine grain and every pore of the wood.
The wood also has a special property which is called "Stirnholz" in German and I couldn't really find a translation for - one site offered "end grained wood" but I'm not sure if it's an accurate translation. Imagine cutting a tree into discs instead of logs. It's the same wood but the discs will look different and will also be harder. That's the way the wood was cut for the Elemento pens.

The barrel is heavily lacquered so discoloration and staining can be avoided. You can probaly write with this one as long as you want, the grip section won't become darker or dirty. On the other hand, due to the treatment it doesn't feel as much like wood. I guess you can't have everything!
Their Grenadilla and Permambucco pens are not as heavily treated so you might want to look at them if you're after a wooden pen with a wooden grip section.

The pen is filled with cartridge or converter. By operating the knob at the back end the nib unit will be released from the barrel, not unlike the system Waterman used in their Serenité pens. If you use the converter, it is recommended to wipe the nib unit clean before inserting it back into the pen.

Did you notice that the grip section is slightly tapered? It feels extremely comfortable. Also my fingers don't seem to slide towards the edge as they tend to with some pens but stay just where they belong.

The Elemento is a medium sized (ca. 13 cm capped, 12,5 cm uncapped) and lightweight pen with 41g capped but only 21g uncapped. (Their Intuition Wood pens are noticeably heavier) The cap can be posted which feels quite comfortable - even to me who hardly ever posts the cap.

Especially next to their Pens of the Year the Elemento looks tiny but it has a nice girth and doesn't feel too short by any means.

 Graf von Faber-Castell Elemento: round tipped B nib 

The nib is two-tone and larger than the ones on their regular Intuition models. In the thread about the red Conway Stewart Churchill I commented on its nib not having a breather hole and suspected that might be the only one of my nibs with that feature. Here I am telling bullshit! These don't have one either but it took me a long time to notice it. It's a smooth and reliable nib like all Faber-Castell's I've ever tried.

Even the cap has a beautiful inlay of olive wood. The stripes of wood running down the barrel are chosen to be similar in color and grain, giving the whole pen a harmonious appearance.

On Graf von Faber-Castell's ads the wood looks very yellowish but mine has more of a red undertone. I guess each one is a little different.

How do you like this one?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ink Twins: Diamine Twilight + Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris

One day I noticed I'd like to organize my ink collection outside of my head: Make some writing samples for each color, preferably with different plens, plus a few notes how the ink performed in the pen and maybe a swab. Sorted by color so it would be easy to find a specific shade if I ever looked for one. I started out immediately using a softcover notebook. 

Then I realized a notebook wouldn't be the best choice and something more modular would probably be better - so I chose index cards. Their heavier cardstock would also handle the swabs better.

I've made about 30 sample cards so far, always with the inks I'm using at the moment, and already found ink twins! Diamine Twilight and Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris look somewhat different while the ink is still wet but when dried they're hardly discernible at all. They're a nice dusky blue-green color.

Swabs: Diamine Twilight (top) and Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris (bottom)

Then I wrote a few lines of text, changing pens every few words. If it weren't for the fact that one pen has an italic nib and the other one a round medium I couldn't make out any difference at all.

Could you?
In English it reads:
"Who can find the words written with Twilight? (Hint: It's extremely helpful not to look for color difference alone!)"

Both inks behave and flow quite well but the Rohrer & Klingner is the better deal for € 3,95/50 ml.

Do you know of any more ink twins?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New Ink Maker: Octopus from Germany

It's a great thing having all this variety of ink colors to choose from. Wet ones, dry ones, shading ones and others, colorful ones and subtle ones - the range is large already. Is there anything we could want from a new ink maker?

Yes, I think so! Especially this really great caramel brown, fittingly called "Karamell" from Octopus here in Germany. They have a huge web shop selling printer ink and toner and apparently one of their chemists thought he'd like to make some nice fountain pen inks too. They're offering a small range of colors at good prices, packed in the no nonsense Pelikan ink bottles.

Nakaya Piccolo with Octopus Karamell ink

Volker from Pen Paradise sent me a bottle each of their Karamell and Pinie (pine brown) when he heard I was interested in them - thanks so much, Volker!
I've also got Red and Burgundy. So far I've tried red, which is a pretty bright and not very interesting color and didn't flow too well in my Lamy 2000. The Karamell, however, is a different story. I love this shade of brown, it's quite light but easily readable, a little reddish but not too much and offers great shading. I compared it to Diamine Ochre, Ancient Copper and Montblanc Collodi and it's very different from all of them.
At first flow was very generous in my Nakaya Piccolo, then it dried up somewhat but still flows OK without any skipping.

I'll try it in some more pens as this is definitely a keeper ink! Will show the other colors as I test them.

The pen I'm using it in is a Nakaya Piccolo in yellow tame-nuri but fitted with a Platinum music nib as I no longer liked the soft fine nib the Nakaya came with and had the music nib around. As nibs and feeds were identical except for the imprints the exchange went fairly smoothly. (I've heard there's been a change of feed generations lately so this might not work if you have an old and a new model. Also music nibs have their own special feeds to supply both slits)
I have to say the Platinum nib looks great - I might even prefer it over the Nakaya ones looks wise.

The pen appears pretty dark in this picture so if you'd like to see some more of it look here: Nakaya Rainbow. It's the rightmost pen in the pictures. The color looks similar to shiro tame nuri but when held next to each other you can see that the base color is indeed yellow instead of white.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Another Italic Nib: Reground Montegrappa Extra

Some pens are just great all over. They are exactly the right size, girth and weight and they look beautiful too. But there's something, a small yet important detail, that makes you grab another pen instead. Time after time.

Sometimes this detail is the nib, as was the case with this beautiful Montegrappa Extra 1930 in dark green Bamboo celluloid. I'm absolutely fine with stubbish factory broad nibs as done by Montblanc but that one was not only round tipped but also somewhat finicky. It was a hard starter if I didn't use the wettest of inks and also would dry out quickly.

So when I heard that a fountain pen friend, Volker from "Pen Paradise", had started offering nib grinding service I decided this was the pen I would send to him. I've had quite a few nibs ground to italics or stubs in the past, most of them done by John Sorowka, and while I am still totally happy with his work it's a long journey to the UK for those pens every time. 

The beautiful Montegrappa arrived back with me quickly and even more beautiful than it went. Here's a view at the tip from a few angles. Also note the delicious sponge like ebonite feed, soaked with the fetching blue-green Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris. 

So how does it write?

It's lovely! The color starts out a litte dark because I wrote these words right after taking the nib shots so the pen had been uncapped for quite a while.
The nib still feels as soft and smooth as it did before but minus the baby bottom issues. No reason why this one shouldn't get a lot more use from now on! Thanks, Volker.

Besides its great looks the Extra 1930 also is of beautiful size (about 15 cms) and weight with 39g capped and 29g uncapped.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ink of the Season: Herbin Rouge Hematite

December is almost here and a lot of people ink their pens with some nice green or red for letters and Christmas cards. I personally feel a great red ink never goes amiss whatever time of the year, especially my favorite red 1670 Rouge Hematite by J. Herbin. 

J. Herbin Rouge Hematite in a Danitrio Genkai tame-nuri

It's a nice, deep, pure red without any hints at purple or wine color. It shades nicely but what's really special about it is its distinct greenish-golden sheen. In my opinion this one needs a wet pen to truly shine so I put it into my Danitrio Genkai. Their eye droppers are famous for their generous ink flow and so is this one. It's also one of the largest fountain pens I've ever seen and owned! It's fitted with a jumbo size factory stub nib. If you like, read more about the Genkai here.

As I could hardly wait for the ink to make its way through the huge ebonite feed I opened the shutoff valve too far and flooded the nib. Somehow I like the way it looks, though. The ink seems to mirror the sleek red shades of Urushi lacquer covering the pen on the outside.

Below you can see a bit of the shading. What the picture doesn't transport is the metallic effect of the sheen. While I like to use this ink for letters or cards, having to read a novel written in Rouge Hematite wouldn't make me happy. Red, dark red and gold, that's just one color too much for one ink and looking at it for too long even makes me feel a bit dizzy at times. Also, like many highly saturated inks, it has a tendency to long drying times and smearing.

Still - despite it having its flaws and not being for everything and everybody (and not for every pen either, if only for the narrow opening of the bottle), for me this is one of the most perfect inks on the planet and definitely one of the most original!

So if your bottle of Rouge Hematite is gathering dust, why not get it out for some Christmas mail? And don't forget to shake it thoroughly before use so all those beautiful sheen particles actually make it into the pen and don't just stick around at the bottom!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Next year's diary by BomoArt

It's time to make the first appointments for the new year and so I made sure to order a nice daily diary a few weeks ago which now arrived - along with two other goodies from Budapest as well as orders for two members of the German pen forum Penexchange.

I apologize for the pictures which are just quick shots but I'm so happy about these books I'd just like to share them!

An address book (with gilded edges) and daily diary with red leather spines on top of an A4 notebook which belongs to someone from the board. The A4 journal looks very impressive, it reminds me of a book with fairy tales I used to have. I think it might intimidate me as you come to expect great things and beautiful magical worlds on its inside - but maybe it would also inspire the writer? I don't know.

The address book's letter tags are made of genuine leather with gold print! I wasn't sure about the gilded edges but then I thought, what the hell. It's such an unusual thing to have an address book these days, I might as well go for the gilded edges as well! It's beautiful.

And the diary...! I have to say I might be easily impressed with diaries. I've only started using a paper diary a few years ago for work, before that it's only just been my phone or scraps of paper. My work diaries were leatherette bound ones supplied by my employer so maybe my expectations have been low. Anyway the diary definitely lives up to the standard I've come to expect from BomoArt!

Each day has its own page of ivory colored, thin and smooth paper, printed in red and black, thus perfectly matching the ribbon bookmark, spine and end papers. It's in all kinds of languages but I've noticed a certain emphasis on Italian so maybe that's where the calendar book block was printed.

Despite being so thin, the paper seems to take fountain pen ink very well. So far I've tried it with a B italic nib using Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris which produced neither bleeding nor feathering. I'm definitely impressed, the diary I've been using performed much worse on much thicker paper.

Some show through but no bleeding at all.

There also is a weekly diary with all sorts of international holidays in it and a register section. What I love most though is this:

There is a map - or to be accurate, to of them - just next to the back cover! Now I feel like I could go exploring with it. It goes nicely with the overall vintage vibe of their products. As usual it all feels very sturdy and well made with thick cardboard covers. The leather has a smooth yet open surface which allows for natural scars and blemishes to remain visible, making it unique.

And it has balloons on the cover! Just like this one below, but with red spine.

Boyfriend says they're kitschy, but really, how could you not like those? <3

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Collectibles or: Why I love Dorian Gray

I don't recall when I read "The Picture of Dorian Gray" for the first time, but one of the things that impressed me most - besides the main story line, of course - was how Dorian used to collect beautiful and precious objects and how the narrator revels in the richness and beauty of these objects. I could especially relate to his fondness of gemstones and minerals as I used to collect minerals myself until I was about 18.

Here's a quote:
On one occasion he took up the study of jewels, and appeared at a costume ball as Anne de Joyeuse, Admiral of France, in a dress covered with five hundred and sixty pearls. This taste enthralled him for years, and, indeed, may be said never to have left him. He would often spend a whole day settling and resettling in their cases the various stones that he had collected, such as the olive-green chrysoberyl that turns red by lamplight, the cymophane with its wirelike line of silver, the pistachio-coloured peridot, rose-pink and wine-yellow topazes, carbuncles of fiery scarlet with tremulous, four-rayed stars, flame-red cinnamon-stones, orange and violet spinels, and amethysts with their alternate layers of ruby and sapphire. He loved the red gold of the sunstone, and the moonstone's pearly whiteness, and the broken rainbow of the milky opal. He procured from Amsterdam three emeralds of extraordinary size and richness of colour, and had a turquoise de la vieille roche that was the envy of all the connoisseurs.

I still have most of my collection from back then and though I haven't really paid any attention to the subject for years there's still quite a bit of knowledge left. However, I feel this is circumstantial.

I can also relate to the parts where Dorian accumulates precious cloths and tapestries. It's not the objects themselves but the collector's passion Dorian and I - and, so I believe, Oscar Wilde himself as well - share and which he wrote about in a way that makes you feel his enthusiasm und invites you to become part of it.

If I were feeling very ambitious I'd say this is what I'd like my blog to be!