Comparing My Many Pen Cases, Because the Road to Wisdom is Excess

fountain pen cases

I was admiring my new pen case the other day, when I decided to compare it to the other pen case I have.

Okay, stop. I fell victim right there to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is “never get involved in a land war in Asia.” But nearly as well-known is “never check your pen things after you’ve bought something new.”

Because, when I pulled out “the other pen case I have,” I found more than one. I actually found pen case after pen case — a clown car of pen cases. At least one of which I swear I’ve never seen before.

Well. Some might ask “how” or “why.” But in the spirit of the age, I’d rather ask, “How can I rebrand a character flaw into something flattering?”

Oscar Wilde is the man for this: “Moderation is a fatal thing, Lady Hunstanton. Nothing succeeds like excess.”

Or the poet William Blake: “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

So what if Wilde died in exile after serving prison time, and Blake is synonymous with madness? All that means is that I have the sort of genius in pen-case ownership that isn’t recognized in its own time.

So I shall wisely compare my many pen cases.

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Deep Thoughts, of Pelikans, Lamy and Kaweco

Pelikan M605 White

1. To buy or not to buy, that is the question. For the first time in a long time, I am tempted by this new Pelikan, the M605 in white, that’s coming out in mid-October in the US.

I’ve been on the fence a bit. On the positive side, as an M605, it’s my favorite Pelikan size and my favorite rhodium trim. I like the silvery look of the stripes. The pen looks like a cross between a demonstrator and a pinstriped suit.

On the negative side, well, it is a fountain pen, and I have way too many of those already. I’d have to sell something to buy it. And it’s very white. Do I like white pens? I don’t. Though, strictly speaking, the cap and section of this “white” Pelikan are off-white, the same as on the M600 Pink and the M400 White Tortoise. It’s still going to lack any color, which those two pens have.

But I like it when I see the photo. It’s frosty.

Normally, I like to wait to see Pelikans in person before buying, because sometimes the pens look different in person. A number of excellent European stores are offering tempting prices, but without US warranty. And I’d have to buy without seeing it first.

On the other hand, I just found out from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith, that the MSRP in the US will be $475. Which means it will sell for $380 with the standard dealer discount.I think that’s still a bit more than the European price, but it comes with a US warranty. That’s incredibly tempting. Heck, that’s lower than the price of a standard green striped M600. Maybe we should all buy one quickly, before Pelikan changes its mind.

It’s a special edition, too, so not available forever.

Hmmm. Anyone else have any thoughts on this pen? Anyone else tempted?

2. Can you keep a secret? Someone I know is going to become a Kaweco and Lamy pen dealer. And I’m just super excited. Those are the two pen brands that I use all the time. The Lamy Safari is my favorite pen, and has been since it first came out. I love Lamy so much if I were seven years old some other kid would say, “you love Lamy so much why don’t you marry it?!” and everyone including me would laugh. But my laugh would be different; my laugh would be thoughtful. Because I would think it’s a pretty good idea.

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.

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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….

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Comparing Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer and Kaweco Paradise Blue

Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer and Kaweco Paradise Blue writing samples comparison

Here is a comparison of Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer and Kaweco Paradise Blue, both in Lamy Al-Stars with medium nibs.

Lake Michigan Summer is greener, wetter and has more shading. Kaweco Paradise Blue is, as the name would imply, bluer. These lines were written with Lake Michigan Summer first, and Paradise Blue second.

Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer and Kaweco Paradise Blue writing samples comparison

On cream-colored Tomoe River paper.

Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer and Kaweco Paradise Blue writing samples comparison

On white Clairefontaine Triomphe paper.

Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer and Kaweco Paradise Blue writing samples comparison

I love both inks, frankly, and the differences are enough to justify both for myself. (I consider my excessive interest in fountain pen inks to be a little silly, so it’s lovely to be able to use the word “justify” here. Any port in the storm.)

About Lake Michigan Summer, it was one of the two inks made for the recent Chicago Pen Show. But per Instagram, Papier Plume is making another batch of Lake Michigan Summer and Ivy 108, to be released on Thursday, June 15. I have more photos of, and information about, both inks in the posts at those links. For myself, I like them both so much I have kept refilling my own pens since April.

Thanks to blog reader Nicole for the question that prompted me to compare Lake Michigan Summer to Kaweco Paradise Blue. This was also just the excuse I needed to ink up my Pacific Blue Al-Star, Lamy’s 2017 annual Al-Star. The Pacific Blue, in my opinion, may be the absolute best Lamy pen color in recent years — and I mean across the entire Lamy fountain pen line. If you’re on the fence, buy one.

Ink Snippet: KWZ Grey Plum

KWZ Grey Plum

KWZ Grey Plum. This is a very popular ink, and it’s almost unbelievably well-behaved. When I wrote with it, the “plum” part submerged into the “grey,” so I consider it essentially a dark gray or light black ink with a purple tint. I’d recommend Grey Plum to anyone looking for an interesting black ink. Or to fans of inks that change color as they dry.

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Pen of the Day: Kaweco AL-Sport Light Blue with Sailor Kobe No. 37 Island Blue

Sailor Kobe Island Blue ink with Kaweco AL-Sport Light BlueKaweco AL-Sport Light Blue with extra-fine nib. New year, new ink. I switched things up this week, trying out some new-to-me inks, including Sailor Kobe No. 37 Island Blue.

I already loved this pen, and the ink seems like a winner, too. Kobe Island Blue is quite saturated, so not a great shader, but there’s a bit. The ink seems a great match for the Kaweco extra-fine nib, flowing smoothly and still slightly on the wet side, while maintaining a thin but legible line.

Sailor Kobe Island Blue ink with Kaweco AL-Sport Light Blue

I love the color of Island Blue: it’s a bright and cheery blue, with warmth but no harshness. When I took these photos, the afternoon light was cool and weak. The spark of life Island Blue provides is a nice antidote to a cold winter.

Kobe Island Blue seems similar to the very popular, but expensive, Bung Box First Love Sapphire, also made by Sailor. That means it will also be worth comparing Island Blue to Diamine Blue Velvet. I’ve only used Island Blue for a few days, and only in this pen, but on first impression, I like Island Blue best of all three inks.

What I Bought in 2016: Fountain Pens

2016 pen purchases

I like to do a year-end accounting of what I bought, to keep myself honest, and to try to learn a little. Here’s what I’ve learned looking back at my 2016 fountain pen purchases: ouch.

I bought 19 pens this year. They are all very nice pens. But I find the total number surprising, and excessive. Also, two of them are purple. Which is just messed up.

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New Clips for the Kaweco Liliput

Kaweco Liliput Clip

Here’s some welcome news: Kaweco is coming out with clips for their Liliput fountain pens and ballpoint pens. Two clips, because the ballpoints and fountain pens have a different diameter.

I reviewed two of the Liliput fountain pens here, along with the large size Supra. I really liked the Liliput. It’s a very small carry-around fountain pen with a really sturdy form factor, and the excellent Kaweco stainless steel nib also used in the AL-Sport, AC-Sport and Dia2.

And I think the clip’s a great addition. Because it’s such a small pen, I like having the option to clip the Liliput in place inside a pocket or bag. I’m not sure what the clip price will be, but clips for the Sport pens range from $3 to $6 in the US, so I’m guessing “reasonable.”

Kaweco keeps impressing me, because they keep coming out with products and designs that show they are fountain pen users themselves. I really like this pen company.

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Photo courtesy of Kaweco press release