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.

(click Page 2 below to continue)

Ink Snippet: Montblanc Racing Green

Montblanc Racing Green writing samples

Montblanc Racing Green. Montblanc Racing Green is nearly unobtainium, unless you’re really spendy or obsessed. Montblanc discontinued Racing Green years ago, and it’s since become quite the thing. Everyone talks about it, everyone seeks it, or at least seeks an ink that looks like it. Every time a new olive-green ink is released, an ink fan somewhere wonders, “Is this like Racing Green?”

I’d never used Montblanc Racing Green before last week. When it was available, it didn’t interest me, and when it stopped being available, the price shot sky high. But I’ve been using it lately, thanks to a sample from a kind friend.

I have good news, and bad news.

The good news (at least for me) is that I don’t really get it, the mania. Yes, the ink is attractive. It’s very nice. But it’s not going to change anyone’s life. It’s not the greatest ink ever made, in my opinion. It’s not even the greatest green I’ve ever seen.

The bad news is that I don’t know another ink that’s a good doppelgänger. Normally I can point out nice inks that are pretty close. Here, however, the closest alternative is, in my opinion, not nearly so appealing.

But it’s okay. Yes, Montblanc Racing Green was a nice ink, and it’s now gone, for all intents and purposes. But don’t think twice, it’s alright.

(click Page 2 below to continue)

Why We Can’t Always Judge an Ink by Its Name, or Even Its Picture: A Tale of KWZ Confederation Brown

KWZ Confederation Brown Montblanc Racing Green swabs comparison

Someone asked me to compare KWZ Confederation Brown with Montblanc Racing Green, thinking the two inks might be similar.

As you can see, that’s a firm “no.”

KWZ Confederation Brown is the limited edition ink made for the 2017 Scriptus Pen Show in Toronto. Montblanc Racing Green was a regular Montblanc ink, but it was discontinued years ago and now trades at very high prices because it’s got a certain mystique.

I snapped a comparison shot of the two swabs and texted it to the friend who had asked about it. His reaction? Puzzlement. He said something like, “That’s weird: my Confederation Brown looks more green, and yours looks more brown.”

Was my ink faded or from a different batch than his? Was something wrong with my ink, or his? Because his looks greener than mine, supposedly.

No, not at all.

That’s a very common reaction. Let’s talk about why.

Our perception of a color is influenced by many factors, one of which is how the color we are looking at interacts with other colors. We perceive a color differently based on the colors nearby.

So in the top photo, Confederation Brown looks browner and less green.

But now look at this photo of Confederation Brown.

KWZ Confederation Brown Sheaffer Skrip Red swabs comparison

And this photo.

KWZ Confederation Brown Montblanc Seasons Greetings swabs comparison

In those two photos, Confederation Brown looks not brown, but green, albeit a yellow-brown-green sort of green.

Confederation Brown has not changed. The only change is the surrounding colors. That makes all the difference in one’s perception of the color of Confederation Brown. (Let me add that when you see Confederation Brown in isolation, it looks fairly green.)

It is highly unlikely — nearly impossible, I’d wager — that anyone’s bottle of KWZ Confederation Brown strays significantly from the standard. That’s because KWZ would have made this special edition ink in one batch. Also because KWZ takes pains to ensure KWZ inks are consistent, even from batch to batch. And it’s very recently made, not likely to have changed color in the bottle.

There’s another issue here: ink names.

So much goes into an ink name. Marketing appeal, the sound of the words, how the name translates into different languages and, of course, the need to describe the color. This ink would have been named by the organizers of Scriptus, the Toronto pen show. The Confederation part of the name refers to the creation of the Dominion of Canada. And the Brown part is for the color.

I think with this ink, reasonable people can differ whether it’s more brown, or more green. As I said, when I see Confederation Brown, it looks green to me — although a yellow-brown type of green. But I think either brown or green is perfectly fair. Also, I’m quite certain that if they had named it “Confederation Green,” some buyers would have felt it was too brown to be named green.

The truth is, there are infinite varieties of any color, be it blue, red, green or brown. That’s part of what makes fountain pen inks so interesting.

Here are the inks I have that I find closest to Confederation Brown in feel. One is more of a brown, one is more of a green.

KWZ Confederation Brown swabs comparison

Stipula Verde Muschiato happens to be one of my all-time favorite inks, and I love how golden it looks here. To me, the slightly browner one is is Verde Muschiato (named green) and the greener one is Confederation Brown (named brown). But they are both green-browns or brown-greens.

Here is Confederation Brown with one of my favorite KWZ greens.

KWZ Confederation Brown KWZ Iron Gall Green Gold swabs comparison

Despite me thinking Confederation Brown is pretty green, KWZ Iron Gall Green Gold is greener. Put another way, next to Iron Gall Green Gold, Confederation Brown surely looks brown. (As it does next to Montblanc Racing Green, in the first photo.) Another reason the Brown name makes sense.

In any case, whatever the name, these are all interesting colors, with many dimensions, and a lot to enjoy. Even a mere glimpse of the swabs shows how different these inks look on white versus cream paper. They also will vary depending on the pen used.

That malleability is a feature of many green-brown, or brown-green, inks. It’s one reason those colors are so interesting. And also why these inks tend to fool our eyes the most.

A Peek at the Pen Cup: New Year, New Me Edition

pen cup

You know how some people love New Year’s resolutions? Yeah, not me. But you know how some people love pen-cleaning? Okay, also not me. But, you know how some people are procrastinators, and they will do anything to avoid a disagreeable task? Me!

So over the last few days I’ve avoided cleaning off my desk by cleaning out my two pen cups instead. Instead of the long, hard slog that desk-cleaning would entail, I’ve chosen to redo my roster of inked pens. Fun.

“New Year, New Me.” Or, at least, New Year, new pens and inks. Plus, I’m down to one pen cup now. Wow.

pens in pen cup

I know, all this excellence and accomplishment is probably intimidating. But I did keep some holdover pens. And not even out of laziness, but out of “I still like these.”

Here’s what has stayed inked: Lamy Safari with Pelikan Brilliant Black (as always); Pelikan M710 Toledo with Papier Plume Pecan; Pelikan M200 with Papier Plume Bayou Nightfall; Pelikan M600 with KWZ Warsaw Dreaming; Parker 75 with Waterman blue; and Parker 75 with Waterman blue black.

Also in there are two Parker Jotter ballpoints. I like them, and they give me something to hand to those people who look at my desk, look at my pens, and desperately ask, “Is there anything I can use to sign this form?” (Those people are relatives, which is why I cater to their whims. Occasionally they feed me.)

For the new pen, I decide to do another ink from Ink Dips, an occasional series where I randomly pick an ink sample from a bag of leftovers. Fun.

So I stick my hand in a bag of leftover ink samples, close my eyes and pull out … Caran d’Ache Ultra Violet. The first Ink Dip of 2018. Ta da.

Now, here’s the thing: I very much like Caran d’Ache inks, but that one is a purple sort of color. I am an honorable person. But this is the first Ink Dip of 2018, and I don’t think purple is a nice thing to do to people (at least, not to me). Especially early in the year, before I’ve had enough coffee. So I cheat, and pick again.

And this time, I pull out … Callifolio Violet. Also purple.

2018 is trying to kill me, and it’s only Day Two.

I say a word, which happens to be a swear word, and I pick again. This time it’s Callifolio Inti. That one is golden yellow, not purple, and looks very nice. Though if this were Russian Roulette I’d already be doubly dead. Not fun.

But I am an honorable person, and don’t have many pens inked, so I find three Pelikans, enough for all these inks, even the purples. I tell myself, “I can do this. The Pelikans will pull me through.”

But can I do this? Two purples in a row?

I don’t know that I can. At least, not without resorting to huffing.

So I go back in the ink area and spend another half hour searching through many other ink samples, to find a special ink. The one I have in mind is ink that’s no longer made, that people seem to love, but I’ve never tried. My friend sent me a small sample of this ink, just so I could try it.

And I put it somewhere really safe. “Somewhere safe” means “I have no idea where.” Duh. But, finally I find it. I pick a beautiful Pelikan for this special ink, too.

Pelikan M620 Stockholm and Montblanc Racing Green swabs

Montblanc Racing Green, finally. In my Pelikan M620 Stockholm.

I’m up to four new pens. Also, I’m not huffing yet. So, a modestly successful New Year, so far.

Inks Chris Bought in 2017

Inks I bought 2017_0002

My friend Chrissy, the indomitable ink goddess, is always kind enough to give us a list of the inks she bought each year. Her 2017 roster is awesome, as ever. She and I bought almost entirely different inks this year, too — our only common purchase was Lamy Petrol. Note, however, that Chrissy is the sort of person who not only lives through a terrible hurricane far from home, but actually emerges triumphant, with free Montblanc ink in hand. A Robinson Crusoe for our time. Here, in her own words, are Chrissy’s ink purchases from 2017:

For 2017 I’m pleased to report that I kept my New Year resolution and wrote records of my pen and ink purchases. I decided to start two separate pages in my Seven Seas Writer Journal, titled “Inks I Bought,” and “Pens I Bought.” I kept them accurately and feel almost saintly. 🙂

Yes, I admit the inks page has more entries, but I spent more on pens because I made one expensive purchase.

(click Page 2 below to continue)

A Thanksgiving Story

Gather round, folks, for a Thanksgiving story. It does not involve Pilgrims, or Native Americans or Abraham Lincoln. Nor does it directly involve fountain pens. But it relates to the latter, in a roundabout way. Also, it’s vegetarian, which is unusual for Thanksgiving.

I warn you, however: this is a dull story. But there is a wedding, some pie, and a happy ending. So I’d only need to tweak a few things to have a great screenplay. And if you soldier on to the end, I will play a completely unrelated song I like.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I’ve been planning and cooking much of the week, because there’s a lot of food to make, and it’s more enjoyable this way.  Also necessary. For instance, I happen to have a pie crust recipe that is fantastic but which takes two days to reach perfect flakiness. (While I am instantly flaky. Puzzling that a pie crust is more work than a person.)

As I was doing Thanksgiving things, I was reminded of last Thanksgiving. When a little plastic piece popped off my Cuisinart food processor, right in the midst of apple-slicing or cranberry chopping or some other crucial task. This was a little plastic tab that held the cover on the bowl of the Cuisinart. Without it, the Cuisinart would not work. So this was a dramatic development.

Daughter of pioneers that I am, I duct-taped that sucker together and sped onward to culinary triumph and gustatory delight. But after Thanksgiving, I had to figure out what to do.

Our Cuisinart was a classic. Literally: the Cuisinart Classic. It was a much-appreciated wedding present, and has proved itself a stalwart machine and faithful kitchen helper. We’d named it (“the Cuisi”). And it never cut off anyone’s fingers. Last Thanksgiving was the first problem we’d had with it in more than 23 years.

My attachment to the Cuisi is, therefore, equal parts practical and sentimental. It didn’t cut off my fingers, and it had been a wedding present. We’d used it a lot. We’d moved with it into three homes. It was older than our kids. We’d grown accustomed to its face.

Also, I have the typical old person’s conviction that anything from my time is just better than anything available today. (Rationally, this is irrational. But it’s something everyone comes to believe.) “Sure this PS4 is snazzy, but back when I was a kid, we had Pong and then Atari, and those were really something. We didn’t need fancy graphics. We used our imaginations.”

Still, even putting delusions of the good old days aside, this was an objectively excellent food processor, and I did not want to replace it. So I looked at the Cuisinart website for a replacement bowl. I wasn’t sure what would fit. I wasn’t sure if I could get by with just the bowl or needed to spring for the whole bowl-cover-sleeve setup, at which point, maybe it would be cheaper to just buy a new Cuisinart. So I called Cuisinart to ask.

And first, how great for a company, in this day and age, to have a customer service number you can call, with people on staff to answer questions?

I talked to a very nice person who understood exactly what had happened to the little tab. She told me they did have a new bowl that would fit, but she added, “But your current cover and pusher sleeve won’t fit on that, because we’ve redesigned the whole thing for safety.”

Ugh. I began to silently rue my fate: safety always means expense. But I didn’t even have time to venture anything like, “I can make do. I’m not that attached to my hands.” No, she continued, it was okay. They would send me the new cover and pusher sleeve for free. It was Cuisinart that had redesigned these parts, so that was their policy.

And how great is that?

She took my order for the bowl, added the cover and pusher sleeve, and had it mailed to me immediately. At which point I had a mostly new Cuisi for Christmas cooking and all the days of our lives, once again. Which I remember happily every time I use the Cuisi. Including right now, as I cook Thanksgiving and carefully watch my fingers — which I don’t even need to worry about any more, probably, because of the enhanced safety of that excellent new bowl.

And ever since, when I have had to buy a new small appliance, I buy a Cuisinart. New coffee maker. New hand blender slash new-finger-chopper. All Cuisinart. And I will continue. Not just because they make very good machines. But because you can call a person, get help, and buy replacement parts — even for a machine that’s more than two decades old. Because they provide excellent customer service. Because they build things to last.

And that’s where fountain pens come in, in a roundabout way.

We are all different, with different budgets and needs, and we all occasionally succumb to impulse purchases. But I’ll tell you an adage we old people have learned the hard way: buy quality, buy once; buy cheap, buy twice. In the long run, that’s good for your budget and probably for the planet.

So along those lines, here is my personal opinions of four pen brands that in my experience have excellent quality, but also have provided me with the very best service and response if there’s ever been an issue with a pen. Edison, Lamy, Montblanc and Pelikan.

Now, thank you for listening to my Thanksgiving story, and for reading this entire year. Happy Thanksgiving, America. Here is something good:

Three Months and Counting: An Extended Test of Platinum Classic Line Iron Gall Inks with a Stainless Steel Nib Fountain Pen

Pilot Plumix

Holy hell: it’s been more than three months.

Back on June 9, I filled a clean, empty cartridge with an iron gall ink and fitted that into a clean Pilot Plumix fountain pen. The ink was Platinum Classic Cassis Black, one of Platinum’s new line of colorful iron gall inks for fountain pens. I put it nib upward in the pen cup at Fountain Pen Follies World Headquarters and Laboratory of Fancy Science. The experiment had begun.

I wanted to see how the iron gall ink would react over an extended period in contact with the Pilot’s stainless steel nib. Would the iron gall ink stain, corrode, gunk up or otherwise cause problems? Remember that we don’t worry about using iron gall fountain pen ink in pens with gold nibs, because gold does not react to the iron gall’s acidic element. But is there a problem with the more common, and cheaper, stainless steel nibs?

After a month, on July 11 or so, I thought it was time for an interim look at the Plumix. Click here for the full report, if you like, but the short answer was, all was well. The ink flowed, and the nib and pen were still perfect. I only used the pen once more, on July 22, briefly. Then I put the pen back in the pen cup and ignored it until earlier this week. Now it’s time for a three-month report.

(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 Dips: Diamine Blaze Orange

Diamine Blaze Orange

Ink Dips is a more casual, and potentially unsettling, ink evaluation than is normal here at Fountain Pen Follies. Instead of carefully evaluating an ink I’m interested in, the point of Ink Dips is to blindly pick an ink sample from a box of the sadly not loved and not blue. Then I fill that sample into a pen and see what I think. It’s an ink experiment that’s a bit dippy.

Diamine Blaze Orange. This is just a magnificent orange ink, at a great price. It’s hard to think of an orange ink that is easier to recommend. If I may, the ink may be orange, but Ink Dips has struck gold. (Thank you, I’ll be here all week.)

(click Page 2 below to continue)