Thursday, November 29, 2012

Which pen is this?

A snapshot I'd like to share. It's a lovely, large pen - and not what it seems!

Disclosure of the mystery and more pictures next week.

Looking at the file names won't help. ;)

Edit: The mystery is now unveiled. ;) More pictures and info on the pen can be found here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ink Paper Water

Pen & Brush Doodles

A quick drawing with Diamine Ancient Copper and Diamine Midnight to illustrate how fountain pen ink behaves when diluted with water. The colours love to mix and create interesting patterns. A bit of their vibrancy is lost when dried but there's still a fair amount of colour left.

Quick sketch with fountain pen ink and water
Some colours dissolve easier than others, the Midnight, which is a very dark blue, washes away to almost nothing even though I used a flex pen and some pressure, whereas the outline of the left thigh in Ancient Copper is still clearly visible under the generous wash of water that went over it.
Also the colours don't become permanent like watercolour so they're harder to layer. Still, to sketch, then use a bit of water and bam! Clouds of colour exploding, that's really neat.

There are watercolour pencils and even ink pencils which are designed for a similar purpose but can't quite deliver the same effect. They have other advantages however, like easier layering.

Here's fountain pen ink next to a Faber-Castell ArtGrip watercolour pencil and a Derwent Inktense ink pencil. I tried to put roughly the same amount of pigment on the paper with the two pencils, even taking the lighter colour into account the watercolour pencil is very pale when washed over with water, the Inktense pencil releases its pigments somewhat more readily but in this respect they're both absolutely no match for the fountain pen ink. It seems like you could do a light wash over half the page with the amount of colour provided by that tiny doodle.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The weirdo - Stipula Saturno

It's hard to imagine a world without a ballpoint pen. It's a world where there are pencils - traditional and mechanical ones - and fountain pens. If you want your writing to last there's not much of a choice.

Consequently there was a lot more to choose from in terms of fountain pens a mere 100 years back, especially there were many more inexpensive models since everybody needed a fountain pen. There were flexible nibs and a wide range of filling systems - eyedropper, piston fillers and especially a range of filling systems with a rubber sac inside the pen's barrel and some means to compress the sac and suck ink into the pen upon releasing the pressure. Today these filling systems have almost disappeared except for some nostalgic editions - like the Stipula Saturno.

Stipula Saturno Crescent Filler

The Crescent filler is one of those long gone filling systems. Before I got the pen I wondered how it would be operated. Would you pull the crescent out, or twist it some way? In reality it's really simple. The ring that goes around the barrel has a gap in it. To fill it, you move the gap underneath the crescent, then press down on it and it will compress the sac. After filling you can turn the ring back into a position where it blocks any movement of the crescent so the pen cannot empty itself accidentally in your purse.

Besides being easy to handle it's also very decorative. Since the pen itself is not a fatty it will still fit in most pen pouches despite the filler crescent on the barrel.

Stipula Saturno Crescent Filler

The Saturno is about the length of a Pelikan M1000, but somewhat slimmer and lighter. It's ebonite, which is no less than fitting for a nostalgia pen. I'm not really a huge fan of ebonite (except when covered with Urushi), but I readily admit it can look gorgeous and the smell, which I'm not a fan of, luckily has already evaporated. It has its disadvantages though, the main one being that colour and luster fade over time, as can already be seen on this one right behind the cap threads.

The Saturnos have been sold out for a while. They came in brown, blue-green and black-yellow and probably some other shades I don't know about. Black-yellow is relatively easy to come by but I had to look for a while to find one in a colour I like better - I got this one from a fellow FPN member in the US. The blue-green is gorgeous. I have a thing for colours which are in-between, this one can't decide between the deep Sea and a dark forest.

Stipula Saturno Crescent Filler
Stipula Saturno Crescent Filler
The nib is a very pretty 0.9 stub, worked on by Greg Minuskin - which is funny, despite I wouldn't send a pen to the US for nibmeister services this is my second Minuskin nib already. I'm not sorry, I like the nice, lush ink flow his nibs usually have - as does this one.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Writing home for Christmas

And it's that time of the year coming up again.

As may be obvious, I love beautiful things and sometimes I will grab them despite I can't put them to any immediate use. Blank cards are an example - Crown Mill does them, Zerkall, Amalfi and many more. They are lovely thick paper with matching envelopes, often lined with tissue paper, making a delicious rustling sound to the touch. So two to three dozen cards have accumulated here and, unlike writing paper, they hardly ever get any use.

Writing a letter is one thing, but a card will run out of space at the moment you've discovered you do indeed have something to say. On the other hand I feel that for the shortest of short notes, like "Happy Birthday" or "Merry Christmas", an unprinted card is oddly out of place.

Diamine Ancient Copper plus some water. Shades like heaven.

Still the idea to decorate my own cards didn't occur to me until a few weeks ago when I was looking at a few hideously expensive minimalist christmas cards online.
For as long as I can remember the urge to draw and paint something has raised its tousled head within me every once in a while, usually getting whacked on said head by me and, over time, disappearing again - but this time I gave it a go. I used fountain pens with different inks and nib sizes and a crappy discarded make-up brush (I've discarded that one for good now so it's not depicted ;)).

As any fountain pen user probably knows, non-waterproof ink and water gives a huge bang which cannot be heard but seen. The ink will spread on the paper in an uncontrollable but very charming way. Up to now, every ink I tried has looked fantastic though they do lose some vibrancy when dried.

Hand decorated Christmas card on Roessler Büttenpapier (moulded paper) cardstock: Diamine Ancient Copper, Montblanc Ink of Joy, Diamine Ochre

The really cool thing is that you don't have to be "artsy" to pull this off, for which I am living proof. Everyone is familiar with the shape of an angel or a christmas tree. You don't even need to master symmetry because you can decide to only sketch one side of the motif and that will work just as well.

The card above was the first one I made, in retrospect I think I overdid it a little with the brush but well, I still like it and for sure it's better paper than most ready made cards you can buy. For colouring I used almost 100% Diamine Ancient Copper plus a little Montblanc Ink of Joy for the halo and Diamine Ochre for the writing.

Hand decorated Christmas card on Zerkall Büttenpapier (moulded paper) cardstock: Diamine Sherwood Green, J. Herbin 1670 Rouge Hématite.

 Hand decorated Christmas card on Zerkall Büttenpapier (moulded paper) cardstock: Diamine Sherwood Green, J. Herbin 1670 Rouge Hématite.  
Besides helping me to get along with my Christmas mail, the making of these cards also gave the part of me that wants to draw and paint the opportunity to build up a toehold and take a good look around, so there's some chance you'll be seeing more of that in time, with fountain pens and without.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Amalfi Paper

The review I just couldn't put up any longer.

(also starring a Pen of the Year 2008)

As announced in my post about my leather journals I need to show you one of my favourite papers: cotton paper from one of the oldest papermills in Europe, located in Amalfi, Italy, right at the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Amalfi paper: A notebook, cards, writing paper.

The picture above shows three different kinds of Amalfi paper I have hoarded: the A4-sized 80-90 g/sqm writing paper, a few somewhat heavier folded cards and a little notebook, again with somewhat heavier paper.

One of the most prominent features about this paper is, while all of the edges are deckled, one of them is very rough and looks a bit like cloth or a tissue paper that has been torn apart. It's incredibly soft to the touch.

Cards made of Amalfi paper with a Pen of the Year 2008 on top. Look at the paper's lovely edges.
Yes, I know, this picture reminds of the ad for the Pen of the Year 2008 - but the pen just looks awesome on this delicious paper.

How the paper reacts to fountain pen ink can vary. Whereas the writing paper is very well coated and resistant to bleed through and feathering even with the wettest nibs, some of the card stock can be prone to feathering. For online shopping I can recommend La Scuderia del Duca in Amalfi, they are quick and all the paper and cards I got from there were perfectly well behaved. Especially the ink jet paper is a good deal if you want to make your own notebooks.

The paper is 100% cotton and like all cotton papers I've tried up to date it will soak up a bit more ink than smooth papers, thus making your lines appear thinner. The textured surface might also make your hairlines look a bit shaky, as you can see in the picture below.

Writing Sample on Amalfi paper, done with a semi-flex Swan 3161 and Montblanc Ink of Joy

This surely is the diva kind of paper, but I just love the look of ink on cotton paper - if the pens decide to write on it. Not all of them do, they will start with a nice lush ink flow but within a few lines the flow will cease and there will be skipping. From my personal experience Pelikan and Nakaya nibs will handle the paper very well, Montblanc nibs will provide varying results and Danitrios nearly always fail on it. So if you want to write a nice long letter on Amalfi paper with your favorite pen it's a good idea to try first if the pen will do the job on this paper.
Each sheet is watermarked, even the cards, though the watermarks can vary. This is the watermark on my writing paper. As you can see the paper is taking the ink well even on the watermark.

Amalfi paper watermark.

It's also great for watercolour or water-ink-painting. Not sure if it's the cotton or the surface texture, in any case the colours will appear more vibrant than on other papers I've tried.

Poems by Hilde Domin ("Einhorn") and Rainer Maria Rilke ("Herbsttag").

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Time for Orange - again! Montblanc Ink of Joy

(also starring a Mabie Todd Swan 3161)

My passion for orange ink doesn't end with Iroshizuku yu-yake! There are so many great orange inks out there and I only know a fraction of them. One of those is Montblanc's "Ink of Joy", one of last year's limited edition inks. It was part of a trio of inks, the other two being "ink of friendship" - I believe it was blue - and "ink of love" (red, of course).

Montblanc "Ink of Joy" in a Mabie Todd Swan with semi-flex nib.

Compared to yu-yake, this is more of a pure, textmarker-y orange. It lacks the burnt aspect of yu-yake and also doesn't shade as much, but the colour is very nice and full of sunlight - which can't go wrong now that the days grow shorter and darker.

Like yu-yake this ink needs some flow and/or a broad tip to show its full beauty and remain legible, the "ink of joy" even more so because the flow seems to be a little hesitant. It's also a really nice match with the semi-flex nib, at least in my opinion - if it weren't for the penmanship, which of course could be better. I feel I still haven't had the famous light bulb moment when it comes to using a flex nib, it's still a bit of a struggle.

Montblanc "Ink of Joy" in a Mabie Todd Swan with semi-flex nib.

The text is from a beautiful and sad poem by Erich Fried, called "Das Schwere" ("heaviness", literally translated) which is all about endings, losses and autumn as the time "between harvest and death". It sounds more depressing than it is, really, but I guess it could use some orange ink to lighten it up and keep in mind that, one more time, spring will come again.

Montblanc Ink of Joy (top) and Iroshizuku yu-yake (bottom)

Here's a quick comparison between "Ink of Joy" and "yu-yake". It's not awfully valid since nib width and flow properties of the used pens are so different but you can see the "burnt" aspect and more red pigments in "yu-yake" whereas the "Ink of Joy" is brighter and more vibrant.

For paper I've used a Rhodia dot pad which is one of the nicest paper for writing with a fountain pen because it is very smooth and tolerates almost any degree of ink flow without feathering or bleed-through. The only paper I've tried that's even better in this respect is Amalfi paper - a review is coming soon.
Rhodia is a french company who buy their paper from Clairefontaine and their properties are pretty similar, however Clairefontaine doesn't do the dot grid yet. I adore the dots, they are unobtrusive but still offer some guidance. After I've revamped my handwriting I've been unable to write in straight lines on blank paper for a long time and it's still not perfect, though much better now, so the dot grid grew on me.

For the sake of completeness I'd like to add that not every fountain pen user is a fan of Rhodia/Clairfontaine paper because some pens won't write well on it. This is mostly due to its smoothness: ink will only flow from the nib onto the paper if capillary action is permitted. If the nib tip isn't shaped 100% right and the paper - like CF/Rhodia - doesn't provide a lot of upright micro fibers to meet the nib half way skipping and hard starting can be the consequence. If your pen is one of those candidates, a little tweaking by an experienced nibmeister can probably help. (My limited experience: If a nib is really well ground and set it will write on nearly anything, but it wouldn't be realistic to expect this of any pen. There are divas among them, as are among us. :-D)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The most curvy - Danitrio Mae West II

Mae is here!

You could see Kevin's picture of this beauty here a little while ago when it hadn't arrived with me yet. Now I've had it for about two weeks - and also had one week off work, thus plenty of time to take pictures - but I wasn't satisfied enough with the pictures to show them. I'm still not, not really, but still I want to show this pen now.

Danitrio Mae West in kawari-nuri "rose gold" - Even the top of the section is decorated.

Kevin encouraged me to look at the finish in different lightings because it would make the pen's colours vary pretty much. The difference can already be seen by comparing the photos above and below this paragraph, and it is a lot more pronounced when comparing artificial light to daylight where it will look more red-and-yellow.

According to Danitrio, kawari-nuri is a really elastic term which covers all sorts of free-style lacquer work. If anyone happens to know the specific term for this kind of finish I'd be happy to be informed!

 Danitrio Mae West in kawari-nuri "rose gold" - On the ends of cap and barrel, the pencil strokes form small spirals. 

When I unpacked "Mae" it was evening, the light was dim and warm and  I was - as expected - absolutely smitten by it: The pen's surface dark gold, seemingly three dimensional, the fine golden brush strokes catching the light. Look at the cap in the picture above and you'll see how some of the golden areas reflect the light more than others. As I take the pen up in my hand the reflections will wander, highlight here and there.

Danitrio Mae West in kawari-nuri "rose gold"

In addition to the amazing lacquer finish "Mae" also has a rather unique silhouette. No straight lines here, every surface curved, tapered. The pen is the classic oversize length which it shares with a Montblanc 149, Pelikan M1000 or Visconti Homo Sapiens OS, but it's breaking those boundaries in width. Especially the cap is quite a lot fatter.
The surface, besides being gorgeous, is not as mirror-y glossy as in my other Urushi pens. There are spots where small irregularities can be seen and felt, betraying what's going on under the surface, that those vivid brush strokes indeed have formed a relief before being covered by transparent lacquer.

 Danitrio Mae West in kawari-nuri "rose gold" - red or golden? I couldn't say. 

The nib is the usual smaller Danitrio nib which my Takumi and Octagon share. It comes in a variety of sizes, both stiff and flexible. It's the least spectacular thing about the pen, in fact it needs some tweaking, but that lead to me taking the leap and exchanging the nib on my own (I'm still kind of holding my breath). The nibs pulled quite easily, resetting took a few tries, not because it was hard to get nib and feed back in but because fractions of millimeters mean a lot to how the ink flow will behave. I'm satisfied with the results. Mae still has a flexible stub nib, but one tweaked by John Sorowka.
(There's only one occasion I got more ink on my fingers: When I wanted to eyedropper fill a pen and overestimated its ink capacity. Of course if you were sensible and patient you would flush the pen with water first.)

 Danitrio Mae West in kawari-nuri "rose gold" - Writing sample with flexible stub nib and  Diamine "Ancient Copper" 

I like to match pen and ink colour wise and Ancient Copper seems like the perfect choice here.

Danitrio's flexible nibs are, unlike some other so-called modern day nibs, truly very flexible, so much so that sometimes the feed will just give up on providing the necessary ink flow. On these occasion capillary action between the tines will break, leading to "railroading" clearly visible in the lower part of writing sample (which I made happen for you for totally scientific purposes of course).

Like most other aspects of fountain pen writing this is highly dependent on the nib/paper/ink combination. With this ink railroading happens on Rhodia paper more frequently than on the Clairfontaine Triomphe. With another ink it might be quite different, still I doubt the nib could provide flex for pages on end like a vintage flex pen. Still those Danitrio nibs have a wonderfully soft feel to them and also, due to the yielding tines, seem to me more forgiving in terms of writing angles than other stubs and italics.