Pen of the Day: Nakaya Piccolo in Polished Shu with Nick Stewart Randall Ink

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib with Nick Stewart Randall ink

Nakaya Piccolo in Polished Shu with fine nib. We’ve had a rainy and gray fall here, but this little pen has just added a shot of color. It’s a Piccolo in Polished Shu with a fine nib.

I really, really like the Polished Shu finish, and I especially like where you can see the darker underlayer showing through.

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib

This particular fine nib is very fine and it writes on the dry side, so it’s very precise. I chose to get a smoother writing experience, instead of the thinnest possible line, by matching this nib with an ink sample that’s very wet-writing, and very lubricated, and also new-to-me. It’s called “Randall” from Nick Stewart, and it’s made by Diamine. I got this sample from my friend Jon. Thanks, Jon!

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib with Nick Stewart Randall ink

 

How Fine is a Pelikan M600 Extra-Fine Nib?

How fine is the Pelikan M600 extra-fine nib? Not very! At least, not “very fine” in the sense of “narrow.” But “very fine” in the sense of “excellent.”

I happen to have a Pelikan M600 with extra-fine nib inked up at the same time as a Sailor 1911L with medium nib. The two pens have different inks, but here’s a comparison writing sample.

Pelikan extra-fine nib writing comparison

I’m not particularly surprised by this. I often use two modern M600 Pelikans with extra-fine nibs, and I always jokingly call those nibs “alleged extra-fines.”

Partly that’s because I tend to think of nib widths in line with vintage Parkers and Pelikans, and modern Japanese pens — all of which run narrower than modern Pelikan gold nibs. But also because I use a lot of modern Pelikan fine nibs, and I find those pretty darn close to Pelikan extra-fine nibs. In fact, I swear that a few of my Pelikan fines write a narrower line.*

Here’s another writing sample. The Pelikan gold extra-fine uses the dark green of Pelikan Edelstein Olivine, and the Sailor medium is inked with the lighter green of Sailor Waka-Uguisu.

Pelikan extra-fine nib writing comparison

I bring this up now because Pelikan has decided to start charging extra for their extra-fine nibs. They apparently implemented the price increase in Europe earlier this year, and it just reached the US with the M600 Vibrant Orange, which will cost $440 with fine through broad nibs, versus $476 with an extra-fine nib.

I’ve never bought many Pelikan extra-fine nibs. I tend to use vintage fine nibs and modern Japanese fine and extra-fine nibs when I want a finer lines. So my extra-fine nib needs are covered. But I don’t think Pelikan extra-fine gold nibs are bad, just because they may be wider. In fact, I think Pelikan’s gold extra-fine nibs are very good.

To me, what makes Pelikan’s gold extra-fine nibs good, and maybe a little special, is that they are extremely smooth and easy writers. I’ve noticed that people who don’t share my love of very narrow nibs always love my Pelikan extra-fines.

Modern Pelikan gold nibs are beautifully ground to almost float on the page, so you can write very fluidly with them, and they reward a light touch. That’s true for the extra-fine, as well. Sure, it may write wider than many extra-fine nibs, but it also writes wetter and smoother.**

Sailor gold nib also are beautifully ground, but at size medium and below, Sailor nibs feature a characteristic feedback. Instead of floating across the page, a Sailor nib feels more like writing with a pencil — it’s a different kind of smoothness. Or look to the extra-fine nibs of Lamy and Aurora: in those the extra-fine nib tends to have a smaller sweet spot and put less ink down on the paper. All these brands’s extra-fines will generally write finer than Pelikan’s gold extra-fine, but the experience is different.

So I can think of a lot of reasons why many fountain pen users prefer the Pelikan extra-fine.

And even though it’s not particularly narrow, I enjoy using it myself. I’m not sure it’s different enough from the Pelikan gold fine nib for me to buy another, given the price increase, but I’d heartily recommend it to those who don’t already own one, especially those who don’t necessarily seek the narrowest line possible.

Pelikan extra-fine nib writing comparison

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*Please note that I’m only talking about modern Pelikan gold nibs here. Modern Pelikan gold nibs differ from (i) the steel nibs found on pens like the M200 line, and (ii) vintage Pelikan nibs.

**There will be sample variations in any nib, so these are generalized statements based on my experience across a range of pens. Some individual extra-fine gold nibs from Pelikan may be narrower or dryer, than normal, or may exhibit other variances.

A Peek at the Pen Cup: Mean, Green, Certainly Not Lean

IMG_1194

Look at that: absolute chaos has descended on Fountain Pen Follies.

And. So. Much. Green.

It’s probably obvious just looking at that: these last two months have been insanely busy in real life, leaving no time for writing with pens. At the same time, I’ve been inundated with pens and ink. I’ve got a bunch of new inks, including some nice samples, and also a few new pens, to try out. Then I wanted to ink up testers for my Pelikan Hub. Then there’s the new Sailor 1911L in Key Lime. Everything has piled up. I’ve got close to 30 pens there, crammed in like commuters on an L train at rush hour.

That Sailor 1911L in Key Lime is the pen I notice most in that crowd. In the first photo, it’s the green pen near the top right corner. What makes that photo unusual is something that you might not notice: there was sun outside. See how nice and gleaming the Sailor looks in the sun?

Here’s an extreme closeup.

Sailor 1911L Key Lime in sun

Pizzazz.

In the sun, the pearlized material of the Key Lime really comes through. On the one I’m using, there are wavy shimmers, for a moire effect.

Here’s another shot, in which you can see the very subtle shimmers on the pen body:

Sailor 1911L Key Lime with comparison pens

Still in the sun, the Key Lime there is between the Pelikan Stockholm and the Lamy Al-Star Charged Green. That’s closer to what the Key Lime usually looks like. But it’s a smidge yellower in real life, which just doesn’t come through in photos.

I want to do a post on the many looks of the Key Lime, because it’s such a cool color, but also so different, and so hard to get a fix on. It’s fascinating.

What you can’t see is that inside all those pens is a lot of green ink. Too much green ink. I feel like I should be decorating for Christmas. Except, of course, it is only October. And in October we celebrate the biggest holiday season of all. The start of NHL hockey.

I’m sure we all feel “too much” at times. Right now, those crammed pen cups are nagging me, like a pile of laundry you haven’t folded for a week. So this Peek at the Pen Cup was the “no mas” edition. I’m going to spend some time cleaning out the pens I can do without, and getting back on track with the others.

I Resist Not At All: the Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange

Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange

It was only days ago that I heaped praise on Pelikan for making excellent quality pens, and supporting fountain pen fans, and suggested that all of us might consider supporting Pelikan in return, by buying one of their excellent pens before the next Hub.

I even suggested to a commentator that he make his next Pelikan pen purchase a “really special and splashy one.”

Well, now, Pelikan has come out with what to me the M600 Vibrant Orange. And I have taken my own advice. Which is not how this was supposed to work.

But I was never going to be able to resist the Vibrant Orange. It’s definitely my favorite type of fountain pen: fun. The Vibrant Orange looks to rival only the legendary M600 Pink in fun. It’s pedal-to-the-metal, absolute “I’m not a dork even though this is a fountain pen,” full-on fun. And in the M600 size.

The only thing that could have made this any better is if it were a Lamy Safari.

And/or not $440 in the United States.

Still, it’s the pen for me. As soon as I saw the earliest announcement from a European dealer, I ordered one from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith — before it was even up on anyone’s website, before I knew the US price. Oooh, pro-tip: if you have fountain pen dealers in your cellphone contacts, these things happen.

Candidly, I’ve been hoping for this pen for years, since I first saw a Pelikan M320 in this material.

I’m getting a broad nib. More seriously, I ordered from Dan because the Nibsmith is a US dealer, and he’ll grind the nib or just adjust the flow for free, which I appreciate. Plus he’s got a little pre-order package going, including free shipping. Plus he’s a friend of the blog. Plus, he’s in my cellphone contacts.

Though apparently, that is no mark of distinction, because his phone number is right at the top of his website. Hmph. On the other hand, opportunity missed. If I can order a pizza from Domino’s by texting 🍕 I should have just ordered this with 🍊✒️ 💸.

I will refine this by next year. Until then, no more pen purchases. 😇

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“Always Listen to Your Mother”: I Go to the San Francisco Pen Show

vintage Pelikan fountain pen

That is a pen.

I am starting out with a giant pen — Actual Pen Content — because after my inattention to pens at the DC Show, I vowed to be more on my game at the San Francisco Show.

That sounds so good! So of course it’s totally untrue. I said no such thing. And that pen hasn’t been within 2,000 miles of the San Francisco Pen Show. But it’s a pen.

And I did pick up a smattering of Actual Pen Content from the San Francisco show, which I will put at the very end, for loyal readers or those wasting time at work. Others, feel free to skip ahead.

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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.