Archive for the ‘Pen Profile’ Category

Pen Profile: Pelikan M205 DUO   3 comments

Pelikan m205 Duo, with inkFor my birthday last month, my mom got me a Pelikan M205 DUO fountain pen. The pen is a unique concept. Like most Pelikans, it is a piston filler–it does not take cartridges. The transparent yellow body is matched to an extra-broad (“BB”) nib. Included with the pen is a bottle of fluorescent yellow ink. The idea is that the pen can act as a both for writing (though with a broad nib) and a highlighter.

(A Sidebar: There was an interesting discussion on the Zoss Pen List about all transparent pens being called “demonstrators.” The opinion I respected the most felt this was incorrect. Demonstrators reflect pens that were made for use in shops to demonstrate a pen. They may be fully or partially transparent, be modified for the purpose, or simply be stamped “for demonstration use.” These are collectable as a distinct subcategory, offer a lot of interesting characteristics.)

I was attracted to it transparent yellow body and extra-bold (“BB”) nib. Like other reviewers, I didn’t foresee a huge need for highlighting. I inked it with some orange, and then green. I was worried the ink would stain the transparent body. After flushing it with water a few times, it was clean, save for a small streak near the section. Letting it sit for a couple of hours with water in it made it completely clear.

Pelikan m205 Duo

As it turns out, this week I was afforded an opportunity to really put it through its paces. I’m attending ITIL training at work this week. We are going through a workbook, which is material to go along with the slides. In preparation for this, I flushed my M205 DUO, and loaded it with its highlighter ink.

It has proven quite useful. I can highlight the key points, but also add my own marginalia based on the instructor’s comments. The highlighter ink highlights well, and short notes work well. This makes it easy to take notes (rather than having to swap between a highlighter and conventional pen). However, I fall back to a conventionally-loaded pen when taking more detailed notes or transcribing a diagram. The fact that the whole pen and the ink are transparent, you can actually watch air enter the ink reservoir in tiny bubbles. I almost want to go back to school, if only to use it in highlighter mode more often.

M205 writing sampleMy usual approach for a writing sample is to scan the output. This allows detailed looks at any feathering or irregularities. However, the scanner was not doing a good job capturing the color of the highlighter ink (indeed, I’m rethinking this approach for future writing samples). In this case, I took a picture of the sample with my iPhone.

To demonstrate the highlighter in action, I printed text in a variety of sizes, as well as examples of ballpoint and fountain pen writing (letting the latter dry for ten minutes). I went through each sample once to highlight, then wrote some marginalia to the side. This is to simulate a note taking scenario.

It works well for up to twelve point text, which is what I typically see for books (I think my ITIL workbook is twelve points). It does a good job at fourteen and sixteen points, though it is more of a “strike-through” than a full highlight. While I tend to prefer the latter (coloring in the base text completely), this does a good job in calling attention to text. I find I’m going through text twice, if only to play with the pen.

The extra-broad nib is fun to write with, though is not well suited to tiny writing. It’s particularly neat to write with a fun colored ink, like orange or kelly green. While I can read short notes in the highlighter ink, it’s not well suited to longer passages.

I find the Pelikan M205 DUO an attractive pen, with some unique characteristics. I wouldn’t get it just to be a highlighter, but it is flexible for broad writing as well. However, when paired with the highlighter ink, it is a great tool for studying for a certification.

My Pelikan M205 DUO came form Appointments in Cincinnati.

Posted 2012-07-19 by Mr. Guilt in Fountain Pens, Pen Profile

Pen Profile: Zebra F301 Compact   1 comment

There are a many catalogs and online retailers that I love to leaf through, mentally shopping. JetPens has become one of my favorite sites for that. They specialize in importing interesting Japanese office supplies, such as cool pen-style scissors, bicycle paper clips, or staple-less staplers. They also carry brands and products I love, such as Rhodia, Lamy, and Retro 1951. I would have to choose a rainbow of colors of D1 ballpoint refills for my multipens would be at the top of the list–I’ve never seen so many choices.

Zebra F301 Compact
JetPens put out a call for reviewers. I signed up, and they sent me a Zebra F301 Compact ballpoint pen. I’m the first to snark about a ballpoint being a “fancy holder for a refill.” However, even I can see the utility they offer. After writing with it, the Zebra refill is perhaps the best ballpoint refill I have ever used. It is very smooth, and puts out a precise line. It was passed among many members of my family over the last several days, and they all agree.
Zebra F301 Compact Writing Sample
As for the “fancy holder,” the F301 Compact is designed to fold in half, and fit neatly into a pocket or purse. In this way, it is similar to the Fisher Bullet Space Pen. Closed, it is only slightly larger than the Space Pen.
F301 Compact vs. Bullet Space Pen–Capped
Posting the cap, both pens expand to full sized writing instruments. While the Space Pen has the write-at-any-angle refill, it is not as smooth as the Zebra. The F301 Compact also has a clip and a small hole to be attached to a lanyard. These are nice options for carrying the pen without losing it.
F301 Compact vs. Bullet Space Pen–Posted
There are perhaps two minor quibbles about the pen. First, it is almost too small to write comfortably without the cap posted. While I don’t do that often, it does happen for a quick signature or a marking. Second, the cap clips solidly closed. When posted, it is held with friction. The lack of symmetry threw me at first, but it worked out.

Overall, I really liked the Zebra F301 Compact. The refill is excellent, and the ability to go from a small piece to a full-sized pen makes it handy to carry.

Pen Profile: LeBoeuf Ringtop   1 comment

My mom has been restoring an eighty-year-old house. She has come across a variety of interesting things that were left there over the years–books, a safe (from a Cincinnati safe manufacturer), and other things. She found a bottle of ink and a fountain pen, which she gave to me while we were on Spring Break.

The ink was a bottle of Sheaffer’s Skrip, which is still sold, by name if not formula. Based on some of the things listed on it (like suggesting its use in a Sheaffer Snorkel), I’d say it came from the 1950s.

The fountain pen, however, is even older.
LeBoeuf Ringtop
The pen is a LeBoeuf Ringtop. LeBoeuf was a Massachusetts pen manufacturer that was founded in 1921. It didn’t last long, closing in 1933. This makes the pen at least eighty years old. That it is a ringtop further validates this. The notion was that a lady might wear such a pen on a necklace. However, by the Thirties, pen manufacturers had pretty much settled on the clip we know today.

The pen my mom gave me needed a new sack–no big deal. The finish is in good condition, though a pass with some Simichrome enhanced it. I kinda dig the grey-and-white marble. The cap is threaded to hold it closed. What’s interesting is that both sides of the barrel are threaded–you can screw the cap in to post it.

As I mentioned, I had to replace a sack. This particular pen uses a lever to fill. When people think of fountain pen, this is the mechanism they mostly think of. There are many cartoons where pulling the lever sprays ink in someone’s face. How it works is, the lever moves a pressure bar inside the barrel, which compresses the sack. This expels whatever happens to be in the pen (ink, water, or air). Moving the leaver back, the sack expands, and draws in whatever the nib happens to be in. If that is ink, the pen is filled.

Writing is OK. I try to limit how much I do to vintage pens. The nib tines are very flexible, and they aren’t completely aligned. There is a sweet spot where it rights OK, but, short of pulling out the nib and doing work, I don’t think it will achieve Lamy-levels of awesomeness.

I’m having issues with my scanner, otherwise, I would post a writing sample. If I get it resolved, I will add it.

The lack of a clip means it probably won’t leave the house too often, but it is a pretty cool artifact.

Posted 2012-04-08 by Mr. Guilt in Fountain Pens, Pen Profile

Pen Profile: Retro 1951 Tornado   6 comments

Retro 1951 Tornados
Jet Pens, an online pen retailer I’ve been following, recently started carrying my favorite rollerball, the Retro 1951 Tornado. Three Tornados, including a fountain pen and a limited edition “Hula” version (both gifts), are in my collection. Many have been given as gifts.

The Tornado is what I describe as a “business casual” pen. It is definitely nice enough not to be mistaken for something from the supply closet, yet has styling that makes it fun. It has a fairly moderate price, making it a great pen to give as a gift. We’ve probably given a half-dozen or more. Most have been for graduations or for bar or bat mitzvahs–a great first fine writing instrument for young people–though it’s been good for a host of other folks.

As I mentioned, this pen qualifies as my favorite rollerball. A brief side note about different types of “ball pen” ink. Fountain pen collectors sometimes say that all a ball pen is is a fancy holder for a refill. While the body of the pen dictates grip and balance of the pen, the refill influences many the writing characteristics, as well as how the ink looks on the page. Ballpoints came about in the 1940s. The cartridge contains a paste-like ink, which is picked up by the textured ball at the tip. The ink is transferred (“smudged”) onto the paper. Unlike a wet ink, which is absorbed by the paper, the paste sits on top of the paper. This is why check washing is possible. Since ballpoints do not need to be capped, they are commonly retractable, and thus convenient in some situations. They are also better for carbons that fountain pens (though I just sign each copy).

In contrast, rollerball pens are a newer technology (starting in the late 1980s), and use a liquid or gel ink and a smooth ball. Early ones had to be capped like a fountain pen. As the technology improved, “capless” rollerballs were introduced, and, along with that, retractable ones. It provides a balance between some of the convenience ballpoints afford with some of the vibrant look on the page and pleasure of writing afforded by a fountain pen.

Retro 1951 RollerballOut of the box, the Tornado comes with a rollerball refill. This provides a good, vibrant ink. It is a standard enough refill that it can be found without too much difficulty. It also takes a Parker Jotter style refill, which is made by a variety of companies with a variety of colors and types of ink (both ballpoint and gel). The tip is extended and retracted by twisting the back of the pen (above the clip). While it is relatively heavy for its size, it is well balanced, and the tapered barrel allows it to be comfortable in any hand.

The original lacquer finish is quite durable, and can stand up to a fair amount of abuse. The glossy finish looks good against its chrome accents, and peeks out of the pocket with the right balance of serious and playfulness. It definitely achieves being a “nice pen” while not being a stuffy Mont Blanc or a bland Cross Century. It comes in a variety of colors, as well as some fun, limited edition finishes. One of the more clever limited editions is a “Suduko” model, which has a suduko puzzle printed on the pen.

The Tornado also comes as a mechanical pencil and, as I mentioned earlier, a fountain pen. The fountain pen is a fairly nice piece with a good nib. For an entry-level fountain pen, it probably is my second-favorite writer, after the Lamy Safari family.* I only have two quibbles about the fountain pen. First, when posting the cap, it doesn’t stay on in a very stable fashion–it sometimes wiggles. This is not a huge deal (I’ve seen worse), but can be frustrating. Second, the barrel is relatively short. While it can take “international” sized cartridges, they have to be the short size. These are commonly available. However, I prefer to fill from the bottle, but, most convertors do not readily fit. I was able to find a “mini-convertor” that would allow for the short size, but they aren’t everywhere. Again, not a deal-breaker, but something to be aware of.

Overall, I think the Tornado is a great pen for someone who wants a nice pen, but one with lots of character. Its price point makes it a great gift, and it offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of refills as well as companion pieces.

Cincinnati peeps can pick up a Retro 1951 Tornado at Appointments in the Carew Tower. Support local businesses!

*A subject of a future post.

Posted 2011-12-06 by Mr. Guilt in Fountain Pens, Pen Profile

Pen Profile: Sheaffer Intrigue   6 comments

Every so often, I’ll have a pen with some issue that takes me a bit to resolve. Sometimes, it’s finding a tool or a part. With some pens, it can be tricky to identify what is needed and a supplier who can provide it. Other times, it’s deciding what the best course of action is. If parts are no longer made for the pen, then figuring out what will solve the problem with the least impact to the piece is the challenge. With vintage pens, I want to try to maintain the integrity of the piece while still having something functional. I’d rather let it sit in the box than do something that damages it.

And then there are cases when it’s simply a matter of sitting down and doing the task that is obvious. Of course, most of my to-do list (pens or otherwise) fall into this category. Such was the case with my Sheaffer Intrigue.

Sheaffer Intrigue

The Intrigue was introduced in 2000, and was discontinued in 2004. It seems to blend some of the attributes of Sheaffer’s classic pens–most specifically, the overall lines of the pen, and the inlaid nib. However, they blended into that some modern finishes–mine is “silken black.”

Extended TrayOverall, this made it a nice pen, but probably not noteworthy (or, for that matter, discontinued). Sheaffer tried to blend the connivence of a cartridge-filling pen, like most modern pens, with one that filled solely from a bottle. So, they came up with a scheme that was ingenious in its design but complicated in its execution.

The back of the pen had two parts that could be turned. The one furthest down the barrel would unscrew and could be pulled back, revealing a tray. A cartridge could be placed in this tray, the whole assembly closed, and the pen would be inked. Alternately, a special convertor could be placed in the tray. This converter had a top that looked like a gear, which would engage with the back of the barrel. The quarter-inch of the back of the barrel could be pulled back and turned. Inside, the gears would engage and operate the convertor. The pen could be filled from a bottle without opening things up, just like the pens of yore.


it was the non-cartridge filling option had an issue, and it took me a while to get around to fixing the thing. Basically, my convertor was jammed in the pen, and cracked. I needed to replace the convertor. As mentioned, the pen hasn’t been made since 2004, so replacement convertors weren’t available through my usual sources.

I finally got around to calling Sheaffer, and ordering a replacement–one of the last five they had in stock. The woman said this was perhaps the most complicated pen Sheaffer made. While I can see this, Sheaffer has made a few overengineered pens over the years.

The pen writes well, though occasionally a reluctant started. I wouldn’t put it up there with some of my best-writing pens (like my Parker 51s), but it is probably above the mid-point in my collection. it is heavy for its size, and reasonably well balanced. I could see it being comfortable to write with for a while, save for a gasket around the section that hits me in a funny spot–I attribute that more to how I hold the pen than the pen itself.

One goofy thing is that this pen tends to seep ink out the nib. I can wipe it, use it, then cap it. Come back to it later, there is a small amount of ink on the top of the nib. This ink is unseen in the cap, and transferred to the barrel when the cap is posted. I learned this the hard way–when I carry this pen, I keep a paper towel in my breast pocket to distance the barrel from the cloth.
Overall, I’d say the Intrigue is a pen that is a good writer, but not so great that it stands out. It is an attractive piece that blends classic Sheaffer design with modern aesthetics. The filling mechanism is interesting, and, for collectors who like to go as retro as they can, is interesting in principle. However, the execution proves complicated, and its collection of quirks probably lead to its discontinuation. Still, I personally find it an interesting pen to carry–evident in the fact that I did take the time to get the convertor.

Posted 2011-01-16 by Mr. Guilt in Fountain Pens, Pen Profile

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