A Peek at the Sailor Professional Gear Shooting Star of Jonuma and the Sailor Medium-Fine Nib

Sailor Shooting Star of Jonuma fountain pen

So here’s my “I know I said I wasn’t going to buy any more new pens” new pen. This is the Sailor Shooting Star of Jonuma, from a retailer in Japan. It’s a full-size Sailor Professional Gear in a transparent, sparkling blue-green, with white end caps that remind me of pencil erasers, and a medium-fine nib. It’s gorgeous, and I couldn’t resist.

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The Platinum 3776 Century Kumpoo

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo

Anyone who knows me knows I am a serious person. “Maturity” is my watchword and motto, perhaps even my raison d’être. You’ll note that I just slipped effortlessly into French there. Like me, the French are not-frivolous.

Thus, when Platinum named its latest fountain pen the Kumpoo, I did not go around whispering “Kumpooooooo” and then giggling. I did not immediately begin craving Kung Pao Tofu. I did not text my friend Dan the word “Kumpoo” followed by three or four 🤣 emoji in a row.

No, I did not. I said something mature and serious like, “I looked that up, and it means ‘balmy breeze,’ which is an apt name, because the color makes me think of a balmy breeze by the glinting turquoise sea. In my spiritual home, France.”

Because I am an adult. The rest of you disappoint me.

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo

And now it turns out, I really like the Kumpoo. Not (only) because of its name. It turns out to be a nifty, and surprisingly nice-looking pen. How do I know this? My friend Dan, of “Dan Smith, the Nibsmith,” sent me his last Kumpoo to play with. I have to send it back, though, because he’s keeping it for himself. And he’s all sold out. Pooh.

Platinum has limited the Kumpoo to 2,500 pens, available with three nibs only: UEF (ultra-extra-fine), F (fine) and SM (soft medium). Apparently the UEF were only available in very small numbers, especially in the US, and are already sold out. This particular Kumpoo has a soft medium nib on it, which actually is great with me, because I’ve never used one. Platinum lists the SM nib as an “overseas exclusive,” so presumably it’s not available in Japan.

I inked the Kumpoo with Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer, which is the perfect color.

I like the soft medium nib. It’s a Japanese medium, so not super wide. It’s soft and springy. It is not a flex nib — with light pressure you can spread the tines wider, but you won’t get the controlled line variation of a flex nib. It’s just kind of bouncy, in a pleasant way.

I should say this isn’t a stock soft medium nib: Dan modified it by creating a very slight gap between the tines so it would immediately start writing with a light touch. At my pen club meeting we compared this modified SM with a Kumpoo with a stock SM, and Dan’s modification really makes a difference for someone like me who writes with light pressure.

I found the SM nib fun to use. For everyday writing, it’s going to be better for someone else. I’m a person who likes to write very quickly, and messily, so I prefer a normal, or “hard,” nib which flies across the paper. People who like a springy nib, or who tend to write more slowly, or with a lot of pressure, or who want a wetter ink flow, would love the SM nib. I actually think the Platinum soft fine (SF nib) is very good, since there’s less of it, and that’s a stock nib for Platinum.

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo

In some ways the SM nib is similar to the Pelikan M200 nib, which is a sort of bouncy steel nib. The Platinum Century SM nib is miles ahead of that nib, however. Now, the Platinum Century SM nib is a 14k gold nib, and the Kumpoo pen costs about $260. So you might say, woah there, apples to oranges. And that is fair. Still, I’d much rather have the Kumpoo than the M200, and not just for the nib. I like the pen a lot better, too.

The Kumpoo is a great size pen, the sort of size that would work for most people. A bit longer than the full-size Sailor Professional Gear, a bit shorter than the Lamy Safari, and wider and longer than the Pelikan M200. The Kumpoo’s balance and weight are good, too. The Kumpoo weighs 25.6 grams capped and filled (comparable to the Pro Gear), and 14.4 grams body only. The body only is a touch light: the full-size Pro Gear weighs about 2 grams more, which for me makes the Pro Gear more comfortable when writing unposted. But I could write with either for long periods of time.

Here’s a photo of the Kumpoo, comparing the size to the Platinum Plaisir and the Lamy Vista.

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo size comparison

One nice thing about the Kumpoo is the wavy ridges in the pen body and cap. From marketing photos, I wasn’t sure if I’d like that, but in person, it totally works. It elevates the look over the standard #3776 Century. The color is nice, too.

Now Dan waxed poetically (for Dan) about the light reflecting off those ridges like the facets of a diamond or something. Unfortunately, it’s been rainy or overcast every day here, and marijuana is not legal in Illinois, so I can’t attest to the sort of bedazzling effect that it may have for others. I guess there is a nice glint occasionally but for me it seems to come from the silvery bits inside — the converter and the rhodium nib. With or without mystical gleams of light, however, it’s a very attractive pen.

I’m not even a big fan of teal or turquoise or aquamarine, but I like this one. And it’s the color of the summer, I’ll wager, after also having the privilege to use the Sailor Professional Gear Ocean.

Comparing the Kumpoo and the Ocean is apples to apples, but different apples. The colors are in the same general teal-turquoise family, but the look is very different. The Ocean is darker, greener and more subdued; the Kumpoo is lighter, bluer and shinier. Also the Kumpoo is clear. The Ocean is the one you’d bring to the office; the Kumpoo is the one your teenage daughter wants to steal.

I’ve asked myself, if I could buy one, and only one, which? And it’s not easy, since I like them both. I really think Kumpoo looks great. Plus, since it’s almost sold out everywhere, you don’t get much more time to decide.

And then, I mean, it’s the Kumpoooooooo.

(To others, of course.)

But … I still think … I’d pick the Sailor. First, for the nibs. I just prefer Sailor nibs. And the Ocean can be purchased with any of Sailor’s standard nibs (which technically Platinum doesn’t let dealers do for the Kumpoo). Also, I just think the Ocean is more classic and will wear better in the long run for me. (Unless this is your color. In which case, buy both.)

I have to confess something: since my borrowed Ocean set sail back to Dan, I’ve missed it a bit. And that’s unusual for me, since I don’t really care that much about fountain pens.

Well, maybe one or two. For instance, here’s my Kanilea Hanauma Bay next to the Kumpoo. Because they looked so nice together. And because even if I can’t get every single pen I like, I’m happy to remember I already have some really great ones.

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo with Kanilea Hanauma Bay

Sailor Tidbits

I have a few fun tidbits about Sailor pens and ink to share.

A friend and I stopped by Anderson Pens Chicago last Friday the 15th to attend their Sailor pen event. Brian Anderson showed his collection of Sailor pens, and Scott Hammer, a Sailor sales representative, brought all the current Sailor fountain pens to look at. Even better, Scott brought inked testers so we could try Sailor’s seven different standard nibs.

We asked about the Sailor Specialty Nibs, those unusual, wonderfully creative, special nib designs that Sailor stopped producing because it were overwhelmed with orders. Good news: all indications are that like Sailor still plans to bring back the specialty nibs, though perhaps on a more limited pen lineup than before.

I also heard good news on ink.

First, Sailor’s excellent and indefatigable ink maker has apparently put together a new lineup for the US distributor — more than 100 inks in a variety of colors. Photos of the swatches looked delightful. This new line of inks will be bottled in smaller 20 ml bottles, like the Shikiori bottles, and will be sold only in brick and mortar stores.

I don’t know when the inks will be available; whether these inks will be available outside the US; or the price. The inks aren’t even named yet, or weren’t last Friday anyway.

While the brick-and-mortar store limitation may seem like a bummer to some, I think it’s nice that Sailor wants to support pen stores. I like shopping in person. A lot of those stores have online ordering anyway, like Anderson, Dromgoole’s, Fountain Pen Hospital, Pen Boutique and Vanness Pen Shop. Or maybe you’re close to a pen show.

Ink bottle news, anyone? First that I shamelessly lobbied Scott to ask Sailor USA to keep selling its current 50 ml bottles of inks like Souten and Doyou. There’s been a question about that online, because Sailor seems to have gone exclusively to the smaller 20 ml bottles in Japan (where the ink is less expensive than in the US).

Good news: it sounds like Sailor USA doesn’t plan to discontinue the 50 ml bottles — at least, not currently. I hope people will keep buying the larger bottles, so Sailor USA keeps selling those. I did my part, buying a 50 ml bottle of Sailor Oku-Yama ink. I am that unselfish.

There was more good news about ink. It seems like they are going to eliminate the plastic ink reservoir inside the 50 ml Sailor bottles. And I love this news, so much, because I hate that plastic insert so much. It’s too small for larger nibs, and it’s messy to remove it yourself. If you are someone who loves the ink reservoir, however, don’t worry: it will be sold separately as an accessory.

Now, on to pens. Finally. Sailor USA has been bringing in a lot of fun colors in the larger size pens, and seeing the entire lineup at Anderson made this trend really obvious.

Sailor’s small Professional Gear Slim pens have always been made with colorful materials. I used to buy the Pro Gear Slim pens just for that reason. But unfortunately, I find the Professional Gear Slim too small. I like the full-size Professional Gear or the 1911 Large.

Others must, too: over the last year, Sailor USA has been bringing more color to the full-size Pro Gear and 1911 Large. There have been new, North-American-exclusive, colors in both the small and large 1911 sizes. First Fresca Blue, Anchor Gray and Royal Tangerine. Then Stormy Sea, which debuted around the time of the 2018 Chicago Pen Show, also in both large and small sizes.

Those colors have all sold well in the large-size 1911s, and it sounds like there is at least another 1911 color in the pipeline for North America. (All of these are limited edition colors, in the sense that Sailor will eventually stop selling them.)

Fun fact: the 1911 is the better seller in the US, and the Professional Gear is the better seller in the Japan.

I happen to prefer the Professional Gear, so I’m happy that Sailor North America is also bringing more color to the full-size Professional Gear, albeit more slowly. First came the Sky, a clear blue, some time ago. Then came the Earth, a brown with some translucency (which I own). Just released in the past few weeks was the Ocean, a blue-green with some translucency.

Right this second, I happen to have a full-size Professional Gear, in Ocean, with a music nib, in my pen cup. That’s because Dan Smith the Nibsmith sent it to me to review. I love the Ocean color. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.

And Anderson had another special edition Professional Gear in a great color, an Anderson special edition in Slate Blue with rhodium trim.

But then I saw a clear Professional Gear with silver-colored trim that I am sorry, but I need.

Finally there was the 1911 Large in Fresca Blue, which honestly I saw multiple times at the pen show last month without caring even a little. But this time when I saw it, boom. Beautiful color.

Or maybe you love the Stormy Sea, the Royal Tangerine or the Anchor Gray. Those are also nice!

In fact, I’ve never seen Sailor put out so many appealing colors in its larger size pens, all at once. Sure, it’s been a good thing for Sailor North America, since these are selling well. But the more colorful pens they come out with, the harder it is to resist.

 

Pen Review: Platinum Plaisir

Platinum Plaisir Bali Citrus

Last month I bought a Platinum Plaisir in Bali Citrus, because I love the color, and the pen cost less than $15.

I’ve shied away from the Plaisir because it’s based upon the Platinum Preppy, the Yugo of fountain pens. But sometimes you just say, “what the heck.”

Actually, I say a different thing. But it’s close.

I’ve been using my Plaisir for over a month now. Did it squirm its chartreuse self into my heart? Not exactly. But into my pen cup. I think it’s a good starter fountain pen.

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New Pen Day: Charleston from Jonathon Brooks of Carolina Pen Company

Jonathon Brooks acrylic Carolina Pen Company

Because a thing is not worth doing if it’s not done to excess, I had no sooner plucked my urushi Charleston from Jonathon Brooks’s table at the Chicago Pen Show, than I found another.

This one is a Charleston in acrylic that Jonathon also made. It became my second purchase at the pen show, all in two minutes of shopping. That is because I am perfectly normal and sensible. Not because pens are shiny.

Jonathon Brooks acrylic Carolina Pen Company

I could say I bought “only” two. Because I liked a lot of Jonathon’s pens. I was especially tempted by one in multi-colored acrylic. But even I couldn’t justify that. “Not three,” I said, virtuously.

But I kept a yearning eye on that one for the rest of the show. Until some wonderful person with very good taste bought it. Not all heroes wear capes. Thank you, friend.

Jonathon Brooks acrylic Carolina Pen Company

This one is amazing. The material is black with sparkles, interspersed with a few clouds of dark blue. It’s very interstellar. Jonathon had a second that was similar, but with green, based on the Northern Lights. That one looked great, too. This one was my choice because blue is my favorite color.

This comes with a steel Jowo nib of your choice, and I picked the 1.1 mm stub.

Jonathon Brooks acrylic Carolina Pen Company

That’s very nice to write with, like all Jowo 1.1 mm stubs.

It’s a cartridge/converter pen, and Jonathon once again inked this for me with the very attractive Robert Oster Soda Pop Blue. I’ve grown fond of the ink. Perhaps from now on I’ll only buy pens inked with Soda Pop Blue. Take that, boring brown American soda pop.

Jonathon Brooks acrylic Carolina Pen Company

This pen cost $175. That’s expensive compared to my Safaris, but I think it’s a good deal. Aesthetically this pen is a little like my beautiful urushi and gold Charleston. It’s sparkly, it’s made of special material, and it’s subtle but with depths that repay close attention.

Jonathon Brooks acrylic Carolina Pen Company

For specifics of the Charleston model, I refer you to the prior post. It’s a large pen, and lightweight, with a comfortable section. It posts securely, but I like it unposted.

Jonathon Brooks had a hand in all three pens I bought at the show this year, since he also makes the gorgeous resin that Kanilea conceived for the Hanauma Bay pen. I love the work Jonathon does, and the work Hugh and Karol and Matt at Kanilea do with him. And they are all great people, as my friend Jon has pointed out. Which is nice.

In the end, I’m chuffed. Three amazing pens. I’m very fortunate I could swing that. But I’m surprised that I wanted to. I have been selling off pens for a while, and I haven’t had much interest in buying. Until these happened.

New Pen Day: Urushi Charleston from Jonathan Brooks of Carolina Pen Company

Jonathon Brooks urushi Carolina Pen Company

This is the first pen I bought this year at the Chicago Pen Show. It’s from Jonathon Brooks, it is urushi with gold flakes, and it is something.

Jonathon makes gorgeous resins for penmakers like Kanilea Pen Co. and Franklin-Christoph, but he also makes his own pens, from various materials, through his Carolina Pen Company. This is the Charleston model, which he finished in tamenuri urushi with gold flake.

I really like the pen design. Barrel and cap are tapered, and a little curvy, with pointed ends. The Charleston’s shape calls to mind the Nakaya Piccolo and the Edison Pearl, though unlike those pens, the Charleston cap is slightly wider than the pen body.

Jonathon Brooks urushi Carolina Pen Company

And there are the gold flakes.

I just like looking at the finish.

Jonathon Brooks urushi Carolina Pen Company

It’s so nice-looking.

Jonathon Brooks urushi Carolina Pen Company

The gold flakes are subtle, with colors ranging from reddish to yellow.

Jonathon Brooks urushi Carolina Pen Company

But, we can also talk about practicality. Because as nice as this pen looks, it actually is just as comfortable to use. It’s lightweight, with a relatively long pen body, and a long section, and a nice girth. Because the cap is a little wider, there is only a tiny step down to the threads and section. And the long section is easy to hold.

In fact, the pen’s size and weight is one reason I picked this one instead of a urushi pen one from bigger, better-known brand. Another reason is the personal touch. I like that Jonathon makes his pens on a smaller scale. He only had four urushi pens on his table, all different. And as much as I like traditional urushi, raden and makie pens, it’s also nice to see innovation. This pen isn’t exactly traditional. And I like that about it.

Jonathon Brooks urushi Carolina Pen Company

The nib is a #6  Jowo 14k gold nib, marked with the Carolina Pen Company logo. Mine is a fine, but you can swap in any other #6 Jowo nib, even those made by Franklin-Christoph or Edison or after-market sellers of interesting nibs.

The Jowo fine gold nib is a standard Jowo fine, slightly on the finer side, which is exactly how I like it. It writes well. Jonathon filled mine with Robert Oster Soda Pop Blue, which I’d never used before, and really like.

The pen came with a pen rest and a pen sleeve; I picked pink for the sleeve.

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It’s a cartridge-converter pen and uses international cartridges, which is an easy-to-clean filling system allowing a lot of flexibility.

And, again, the pen’s size really works for me. Here’s a comparison to other well-known pens — from left to right, a Montblanc LeGrand (146), a Lamy Vista, the Charleston, an Aurora Optima and a Pelikan 400.

Jonathon Brooks urushi Carolina Pen Company size comparison

Here are the pens uncapped. Notice the Charleston’s nice long section.

Jonathon Brooks urushi Carolina Pen Company size comparison

I find the pen perfectly comfortable to use unposted. Though I have smaller hands it seems large enough for people with larger hands, too.

Despite the gold flakes, the pen isn’t really blingy. It catches your eye, and invites you to look closely to discover why.

DSC_6683

It’s a lovely pen. It’s another pen I just love to look at, even when I’m not writing with it.

I really have nothing that isn’t positive to say. The craftsmanship is flawless. The finish looks beautiful and the cap screws on well. I like writing with it. I like seeing it. And I like having a pen by Jonathon Brooks: he’s a first-rate pen and materials maker, but he seems like an even better person. And I feel very lucky to have this beautiful pen.

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New Pen Day: Kanilea Hanauma Bay

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

Here’s one of the pens I bought at the Chicago Pen Show, in fact the last pen I bought at the pen show. It’s the Kanilea Hanauma Bay.

I really tried not to buy this pen. I tried to be sensible. But it was like going to a puppy adoption event, casually. You just want to “see the puppies.” You start playing with the little guys. Of course. Puppies are cute. Next thing you know, you’ve got little Bernard in the back seat, and you’re wondering if your husband will actually divorce you for this.

Except a fountain pen will not chew the baseboards and shred the curtains. So this was a comparatively sensible decision. Plus, it was my birthday, so the rules do not apply.

However, if you want to avoid succumbing to temptation, at least now I can help you. I can point out exactly where I went wrong: I picked it up. And then I really looked at it.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

I kept looking. And then, it was too late. It was my puppy now.

The Hanauma Bay resin is a mixture of swirly bits and sparkly bits and even translucent bits, in blues, blue-greens, white and oranges. From every angle, in every way, it’s beautiful, and interesting.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

The Kanilea Pen Company makes fountain pens designed around custom-made resins by Jonathon Brooks. The family behind Kanilea are Hugh and Karol Scher and Matt Baldwin, and they work with Jonathon to come up with resins that reflect elements from their travels in Hawaii. Together they’ve created eleven Kanilea fountain pen materials. This is the latest, named after Hanauma Bay in Hawaii.

There are all kinds of ways to customize a Kanilea pen, since they make five different body styles, and you can get it with a clip or clipless. Mine turns out to be the classic flush design, with a medallion in gold-plated sterling silver.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

Even within a particular material, the resins, and thus the pens, are slightly different. This is mine.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

I like pens in one of two categories: minimalist and modern, or colorful and fun. The pen body may be minimalist, but the material is very colorful. And very beautiful. In some spots, it makes me think of Van Gogh.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

The material has depth. It repays your attention. You see something new every time, and on every part as you rotate it.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

And no matter how it looks in photos, it looks much better in real life. I’d seen the pens before, in Kanilea’s wonderful product shots. That didn’t prepare me for how great they look in person.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

It’s not surprising for a pen made in small numbers, with this care and attention, and with custom-designed material, but these are expensive. Mine was $395 with a steel nib. It’s a cartridge-converter pen, and you have a choice of steel nibs from extra-fine to stub. Or you could upcharge to a gold nib if you wanted. Hugh adjusts the nib to your liking. Mine has the steel stub.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

A pen in this price range isn’t an impulse buy, or at least it wasn’t for me. But I had sold some pens and could buy this. And I haven’t had any second thoughts — in fact, the opposite. I feel pretty lucky to have it.

The nib writes well after Hugh’s ministrations, and the pen body is lightweight and a good size, with a comfortable section. I enjoy writing with it. But the bottom line is, it’s just gorgeous. And very time I pick it up, I’m delighted.

Kanilea Hanauma Bay

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Artwork by Mary Jo Ernst, sketched at the 2018 Chicago Pen Show. Mary Jo can be found on Instagram under @mysteriousmannequin.

Chicago Pen Show: Tally

Pens Purchased: Three.

Amount Spent: Eleventy zillion dollars.

Inks Purchased: Four.

Graf von Faber-Castell Moss Green, which I’ve sampled and really like.

Graf von Faber-Castell Electric Pink, which had me at “electric pink.”

Montblanc Lucky Orange, which my friend Dan likes and I thought he might need. But then I forgot to tell him. So I guess we’ll find out if he reads the blog.

Diamine Earl Grey, which I really liked, though I wouldn’t have predicted that.

Inks I Forgot I Purchased: One. KWZ Hawaii Blue. It’s a KWZ, and it’s blue, so of course.

Inks Not Purchased: Two. I set aside KWZ Honey on Sunday, but forgot to go back to buy it. And I wanted another Papier Plume Da Blue, but forgot completely.

Lists Needed Next Year: “Don’t forget to buy these at the pen show.”

Pens Repaired: One. It took two wonderful pen repair people to do it.

Nibs Ground: None. I brought the nib, like last year, but forgot to bring it over, like last year.

Lists Needed Next Year: “Don’t forget to do this at the pen show.”

Thought That Just Occurred to Me: Perhaps a temporary tattoo would work better than a list.

Pens Sold: Seven or eight. Thanks, Rick.

Required Research on Nakaya pens at the Classic Pens Table : Probably 50-80 visits. But I mean, the show was four days.

Nakayas Now Needed: One. Nakai-ai in Unpolished Shu with Flex Double Broad Cursive Italic.

Best Thing: Meeting a pen friend from Michigan in person for the first time.

Next Best Thing: Lots of other nice people.

State With Highest Ratio of Incredibly Nice People: Iowa. Especially Nick, Diana, Paloma and Steve.

People I Could Have Talked to for Much Longer: On Saturday night it was three: Nicole, Trevor, and Laura. But every day, and every year, at the pen show it seems like I could just answer “everyone.”

Exact Moment My Brain Fried: 8:30 pm, Saturday night. Bang, fizzz, poof, gone.

Total Hours of Sleep Over the Three Nights: Twelve.

Number of Brain Cells Currently Functioning: Twelve.

Life-Changing Discovery: “Cold Foam Cascara Cold Brew” from Starbucks.

Number of People Who Asked Me, “Are You Following Me Around?”: Four.

Number of People Who I Hope Were Kidding About That: Four.

Lamy Al-Star Vibrant Pink: Pen and Ink

DSC_5960

This is hardly breaking news, but Lamy gave us another nice Al-Star for 2018, the Vibrant Pink, with matching ink.

I’m not sure this new Al-Star is any more interesting than any other, but it is pink, and that’s an excuse for photos, plus a headline that contains a poem. I’ll include a twist at the end, too. (All this, and for free, too? Such a deal.)

Well here we go: Vibrant Pink, pen and ink.

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