What I’m Doing on my Summer Vacation

I’ve been taking some time away from the blog. Because it’s summer.  Here are some things I’ve been doing instead.

1. Anything but pens. I haven’t picked up a fountain pen for more than a scribble in weeks. I’m just not feeling it. No inspiration to write. No real interest in pens, either. I’m recharging. I might start a different writing project.

2. Pen Show. Actually, I have been doing pen things, just that they all relate to the Chicago Pen Show. That’s of course the 2018 show, which sadly isn’t until next May. We’ve got some fun things in the works, though. Everyone should come.

3. Gardening. I’ve been gardening a lot. But not genteel or picturesque gardening. Rambo gardening. While redoing one of the borders, I scratched up both arms muscling a Zebra Grass on a day that was so hot I couldn’t wear long sleeves. Teaching me that there is no day in the garden so hot that I shouldn’t wear long sleeves. But that wasn’t the best part of the Zebra Grass Battle. The best part was when I realized one large clump of Zebra Grass was actually too firmly rooted for me to divide it with a spade. Even standing on the top of the blade didn’t provide enough oomph. It was so hot, too. I considered just lying down on the lawn and expiring from weakness, right there. The dogs would have found my remains. And everyone would have felt badly. “Why didn’t we think to bring her an iced tea? Or help out? We’re monsters!” That would have been good.

4. Bunnies. Nothing makes you realize, “I’ve lost the innocent bloom of youth,” like coming to see Mr. McGregor in a completely different way, not as the villain of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, but as the everyman hero. Because no matter how cute bunnies seem when you’re little, when you grow up and begin to till your own small square of earth, you realize rabbits are voracious eaters and rapid breeders, and the enemy of all plant life. If not all life on earth. So every summer, I battle to humanely protect the plants they target. And every summer, I lose. Plus, our younger dog, Gus, is an avid hunter, and not humane, so every year I’m also battling to keep him away from the baby bunnies. This year has been especially grisly on the Gus front. But there’s a little baby bunny out there now, who’s somehow survived. He’s an adorable little sprite who just hopped out and obliviously began munching on our back lawn the other day. Right in front of our french doors. While on the inside, my dogs howl at the tiny, blithe provocateur and hurl themselves murderously against the glass. I know, one way or another, this is going to end badly.

5. Movies. We’ve been watching a lot of movies. There is no hockey in the summer. This is the only bad thing about summer.

6. Books. I’ve been reading actual books. All the way through. Yeah. Next step, world domination.

7. Cursing Photobucket. Without warning, or even after-the-fact notice, @$&*%$# Photobucket cut off all photo-links, unless you want to pay some blackmailishly high annual fee. As a result, many photos on this blog were disappeared, and I have to try to figure out which ones, then try to find them on my computer, then put them back. Great use of anyone’s spare time. Photobucket can be rhymed with some pretty bad words, let me tell you.

Update: Testing Platinum Classic Line Iron Gall Inks with a Stainless Steel Nib Fountain Pen

Pilot Plumix

Platinum’s 2017 release of six colorful iron gall inks, called the Classic Line, has made me very happy. I love iron gall inks for fountain pens, and appreciate the gentler ones, which I call “modern iron gall inks,” after KWZ Ink’s low-maintenance iron galls.

The new Platinum lineup seems very nice, and very low-maintenance. There’s an overview of all six here. I’ve used three of these on an extended basis, and reviewed those three here: Citrus, Sepia and Cassis. I got my samples from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith, who sells ink as well as pens, luckily for me.

I’ve recently been testing one of the Platinum Classic inks — Cassis Black — for an extended time in a Pilot Plumix fountain pen with a stainless steel nib. I wanted to really see just how safe these inks are with any pen. To see if the ink would react with the pen’s stainless steel nib, or clog or stain, and if so, how long would it take.

(click Page 2 below to continue)

A Second Look at KWZ Red #1

KWZ Red #1 writing sample

You know how we’re always focused on new, new, new? (Of course we are. That’s fun. And new!) One of the good things about pens and inks is that there is always something new to learn, or try, or want to buy. But then we sometimes realize that we’ve forgotten about all that stuff we already have.

And you know how it’s summer, and we don’t like to exert much more energy than that required to pop the top off a cold beverage?

And you know how we used to have brain cells, long ago, but now have misplaced them, or perhaps squandered them. Or maybe they just gave up on us and walked away, without even saying goodbye, because we could swear we walked into this room for some reason and yet ….

Okay, so all those things are why I’ve had KWZ Red #1 inked up for the last few weeks. The initial impulse was that it looked like a good ink to review. Until I wrote two words with it, and realized, um, I’ve used it before. In fact, I wrote a long review of KWZ Red #1 in March 2016, which you can read here if you like. Let’s all do that. Perhaps in the future I should reread all my old reviews before I open a bag of samples and think, “This one looks nice.”

That would be a nice thing to do. But then, you know, it’s also nice to be reminded that everything doesn’t have to be new. Also, sometimes we change our first impressions. Would KWZ Red #1 still be #1 for me?

(click Page 2 below to continue)

Papier Plume Red Beans and Rice: The Newest Ink in the New Orleans Collection

That’s the song “Red Beans” from the late, great Professor Longhair of New Orleans, which is what I used to think of when I thought of red beans and rice. (Also, yum.)

And now I also think of ink. The classic Creole dish red beans and rice is the inspiration for the newest ink from Papier Plume of New Orleans. It’s going to be part of Papier Plume’s New Orleans Collection of inks, which I briefly reviewed here. I haven’t been using much else since I got these inks, honestly.

Here is the baby of the family.

Papier Plume Red Beans and Rice

I’ve had a tester bottle of  Red Beans and Rice since early June, so I’ve been lucky enough to put the ink through its paces for nearly a month. Verdict: delicious! It’s a very attractive burgundy ink with an nearly irresistible name. It really does remind me of red beans and rice, too.

As a darker color, Red Beans and Rice makes a nice addition to the other five New Orleans collection inks, which are more summery. Red Beans and Rice is a good strong color, and warm. It has nice shading and the color is both legible and engaging. Best of all, it can give a different look in different pens.

Papier Plume Red Beans and Rice

I’ll put up a more detailed review before the Fourth. Papier Plume will be debuting the ink on July 14. The first batch will be available from Papier Plume online and at the Miami Pen Show both.

I would point out that it took a lot of willpower for me not to slip into this post the sentence “Red Beans and Rice is extra nice.” But if you’re a regular reader, you know that willpower is a great strength of mine. Nor did I call myself “a secret agent of ink.” Even though it’s (a) accurate and (b) should be said. After all, I did not spill the beans. But, no, I am too mature. A small sacrifice, for Red Beans and Rice.

My Favorite, and Least Favorite, Starter Fountain Pens

fountain pens

Starter fountain pens: let’s get into it. Everyone loves a “what starter fountain pen should I buy” question. I am no exception: I have a few suggestions. The problem is, I also have a few I really don’t suggest, even though they are commonly recommended for beginners.

My choices are based on my own preferences, my own experience and my own tastes. Feel free to disagree. Different opinions and experiences are part of the fun.

For a starter fountain pen, I want a pen with a fairly low price. That encourages people to take the chance. And if you don’t get the hang of writing with the fountain pen, or don’t like it, or you lose your pen, it’s not the end of the world. I only consider new pens, not vintage pens, for ease of purchase and ease of use.

But another requirement for me is that the pen be capable of providing lasting satisfaction. My ideal starter fountain pen can be used regularly even when you’ve moved past the starter stage. Because fountain pens don’t have to be expensive or precious, in my opinion.

So let’s jump in the pool.

(click Page 2 below to continue)

Comparing Kaweco Paradise Blue and Robert Oster Tranquility

Kaweco Paradise Blue & Robert Oster Tranquility comparisons

The blue-green and green-blue ink space may be stuffed to bursting, but, like my waistline, it seems to keep expanding anyway. In some ways, that makes it an ink fan’s playground. But also Waterloo. In the sense of, prepare for defeat. But also, in the I “couldn’t escape if I wanted to” sense — the good, disco sense.

I got sucked into the latest round of blue-green comparisons by happenstance. I’ve been using a lot of blue-green and green-blue inks lately. It started with some Robert Oster inks, like Fire and Ice and Deep Sea, and others not on the blog — Robert Oster makes a slew. Then came Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer, another gorgeous green-blue. Followed by Robert Oster Tranquility, a blind buy at the Chicago Pen Show.

All during my dips into the blue-green pool, smarter-than-me readers (redundant, I know) kept bringing up other inks. So I’ve had this color on the brain.

Last night for some reason I decided to put Kaweco Paradise Blue in a Montblanc with broad nib. I already have it in a Lamy Al-Star with medium nib.

Kaweco Paradise Blue is an ink I really like. I’ve compared it to Caran d’Ache Caribbean Sea and Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer, as well as just enjoyed how nice it looks with Pelikan Turquoise (another underrated ink). Paradise Blue is a blue-green that melds very nicely with other inks in that color space, and that looks bluer or greener depending on the inks you use around it.

At the same time, I decided to give Robert Oster Tranquility another shot. I’d first put it in a Franklin-Christoph, which is an excellent pen, but a poor match for Tranquility (for me), because both pen and ink are wet. I decided to try Tranquility in one of my favorite pens, a Montblanc Virginia Woolf with fine nib.

I quickly wrote with both of my newly inked Montblancs in a notebook. I looked several times at the page, wondering, Did I ink up both pens with Tranquility? I couldn’t believe how similar these two inks now looked. It did appear that Kaweco Paradise Blue was slightly bluer, and Tranquility slightly greener. But still so similar.

But it was night, and electric light can be deceptive. I would wait till morning and write with them under natural light. I also filled an Al-Star with a medium nib with Tranquility, to compare it to Paradise Blue in the other Al-Star….

(click Page 2 below to continue)

Ink Snippet: J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis

J. Herbin Blue Myosotis

J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis. This ink. It’s strange. On most paper, its color seems to fade after a day or so. The final color ends up a pale periwinkle, after it fades from a darker, fresher blue. It’s a nice enough color, either way, but I can’t work out whether the fading is a bug or a feature. This ink confuses me.

(click Page 2 below to continue)