Friday, December 28, 2012

Musings on Tea

My latest foray/interest in the world of tea is something that I believe I have tried in the past and yet never pursued: Lady Grey black tea. Very much related to Earl Grey, I have found that it provides a light reprieve from the somewhat-heady blend of black tea and oil from bergamot oranges in the original Earl Grey. Lady Grey adds flavors of lemon and Seville oranges for a profile full of increased citrus. My recommendation, if this sounds appealing, is to give Twining's Lady Grey a try. It can be found at many supermarkets.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The best of intentions and Moleskine

The post that I intended to write today was about the use of fountain pens with Moleskine brand products. I may, in the future, post the comparison pictures with various pens and ink in combination with Moleskine paper, but, for now, I would like to share some of my thoughts and solicit the experiences of others, in regard to these popular paper products.

Despite the quality (and price) of Moleskine products, I find that they are not always the most useful with fountain pens. This is not so much on account of the pen, but, more often, the ink is at "fault." While the Moleskine paper has no problem handling drier-writing pen and ink combinations, wetter inks seem to get into the fibers and spread like miniature spider webs. Even some inks, such as Noodler's X-Feather, which work wonderfully on many cheap papers, seem to have issues at times.

Surprisingly, the worst Moleskine writing experiences I have encountered come with the use of rollerball pens, both disposable rollerballs (such as the Pilot G2) and refillable rollerball pens (such as those from Noodler's and J. Herbin). On an important note, this is by no means discounting Moleskine...I have a Moleskine notebook that I very much enjoy using, and I have been looking at acquiring a Moleskine daily planner.

What experiences have you had, positive or negative, with ink and pen combinations on Moleskine products?

Edit 10/3/2013: After quite a few fountain pen ink tests on the page of a Moleskine notebook, I am sharing my results and some changed thoughts! View that new post, here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other winter holiday! I promise that (quasi) regular posts will return tomorrow, and I hope that this holiday season finds you and your families well and in good health.
Wishing you all the best,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Review of the Crocodile #232 Black Leather Fountain Pen

First Impressions (10)
Wow, what an awesome-looking pen. When I had seen this pen online, I had been impressed. Now, though, I am even more so! If it were not for “Crocodile” printed around the cap and on the clip (and the crocodiles imprinted in the leather), this pen could certainly pass for a Montblanc Starwalker version at first glance.

Appearance (10)
While I am sure that the gem in the glass dome on the cap of this pen is made of cubic zirconia, it, nonetheless, gives this pen an air of luxury. Likewise, the leather-wrapped barrel presents a fancy air with a touch of ruggedness. This Crocodile bears a striking resemblance to the Baoer Skywalker (though, of course, they both pay tribute to the Montblanc Starwalker). The crocodiles that are imprinted in the leather are nearly unnoticeable, until one looks at them very close. In fact, it is not one single shape in the pattern, but a number of different crocodiles in repetition.

Design/Size/Weight (7)
I found that the gem in the glass dome was a bit off-center, which I expected in a pen of this price point. The barrel has moderate weight to it, which is barely increased by the cap, as the black body of the cap appears to be made of a plastic, just like the end of the barrel (a feature that I noted to be present in the end of the Baoer Skywalker barrels, as well). On the end of the barrel, the plastic is fine and seems solid, but, on the cap, the plastic feels cheap. Additionally, the metal clip feels thin and cheap, as though it might break with too much stretching. The cap can be posted upon the threads at the end of the barrel. The use of two metals of different shades with the section and accent bands works quite nicely with the leather and the black plastic. The textured grip is comfortable to hold but can feel a bit rough from some angles.

Nib (6)
When I first filled this pen, it skipped a LOT. Downstrokes were solid, but side-to-side movement provided a barely visible line...when there was a line at all. After some adjustment of both the nib and the feed, it writes much better and much more consistently. The two-tone nib looks and feels a bit cheap, though it is moderately smooth.

Filling System (6)
Standard international cartridges (short and long), as well as a standard converter, may be used in this pen. The included converter is, sadly, of a flimsy construction.

Cost and Value (7)
At 15 USD, this pen carries a price tag that is about the upper range of what I would pay for a pen like this. However, for the look, it was certainly worth it. For the functionality, there are far better options at this price.

Crocodile #232 (left) and Baoer Skywalker (right)

Conclusion (8)
If you are looking for pens in the style of the Montblanc Starwalker, I recommend looking at the Baoer Skywalker, rather than this pen, unless this Crocodile’s appearance really strikes you. It is a rather nice-looking pen. The adjustment that was necessary could be very off-putting to anyone, who did not have experience with (or desire for) adjusting fountain pen nibs.

The Crocodile #232 can be purchased from, here. A review of the Baoer Skywalker can be found here. This review was unsolicited and uncompensated. Feel free to post comments or questions! Yes, I definitely need a macro lens...

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Review of the Baoer #3018 Black Sonnet Fountain Pen

First Impressions (9)
This pen looks pretty slick. Capped, it is faintly reminiscent of a Sheaffer Legacy. Uncapped, the hooded nib gives an impression of class. In fact, the appearance of the pen suggests a much costlier writing instrument.

Appearance (9)
This Baoer carries a simple elegance in its smooth, black lines, gently accented by the gold clip and cap band. The soft taper of the cap toward the body is easy on the eyes, and the gently squared ends of both the cap and the barrel provide a pleasantly unique look to what would, otherwise, be a plain, round body.

Design/Size/Weight (8)
I cannot honestly not say that I know of what this pen is made. However, though it may feel like plastic, it seems to be quite sturdy. It may not hold up to having someone sit or step on it, but mine has been pocket carried (in a pen sleeve) and used upon my desk for several months, now, and it shows no signs of wear. The section has a nice taper, which makes this pen quite pleasant to hold, and the weight is quite light. For those who grip their pen very close to the nib, this section may be uncomfortable on account of the groove between the gold and the black (on the section), which is where the cap snaps onto the body.

Nib (9)
The fine nib writes quite smoothly for such a narrow point, as it appears to be about the width of a European extra-fine nib. A bit of pressure can vary the width of lines a bit, and an even finer line may be managed by writing with the nib upside-down.

Filling System (6)
This pen takes standard international cartridges (long or short) or a standard converter, and mine came with a converter. I am going to give this section a lower rating, not for the filling itself (which is quite simple, as many converters are) but for the feed and nib flow, which tend to get “clogged” with ink at times (if the pen is not used daily), requiring a bit of maintenance with a paper towel or a bit of water, in order to get ink flowing smoothly again. However, this could be specific to my pen.

Cost and Value (9)
For what is provided (a good pen and a converter), this pen is a great value. I found the construction of the pen to be well-done and the construction of the converter to be better than a number of other standard international converters, with no flimsy parts. (Jinhao, I highly recommend a redesign of your converters, as soon as possible.)

Conclusion (8)
For a pen that is priced at less than 10 USD, the simple classiness cannot be beat. Unfortunately, I cannot speak to the flow issues with other pens of this model.

The Baoer #3018 Black Sonnet can be purchased from, here. Be sure to check out my reviews of other Baoer pens, including the Skywalker fountain pen, here, and the Skywalker rollerball, here. This review was unsolicited and uncompensated. I welcome your questions and comments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Review of the Baoer Skywalker Rollerball Pen

First Impressions (10)
I already own the Baoer Skywalker fountain pen, so when I removed this pen from its packaging, nothing surprised me about the look. The simplicity and beauty are nice for such an inexpensive pen.

Appearance (9)
Side by side with the fountain pen version, with caps on, they are indistinguishable. In fact, I think that the bodies and caps are the same, and the only difference is the section, which cannot be seen while the pens are capped. That being said, I still feel that the clip has a bit of a cheap look to it. On the other hand, this rollerball does not seem to have the same issue with the floor under the glass dome not being level with the rest of the cap, leading me to believe that this was merely a quality control issue with the fountain pen that I have.

Design/Size/Weight (10)
On account of the extra metal in the rollerball section and the rollerball cartridge itself, this pen is a bit heavier than the fountain pen version, but it still maintains a very balanced weight. The weight is also very comfortable. The minimal amount of heft gives the pen just enough presence that it is felt, yet it remains comfortable. The cap may be posted on the threads at the end of the barrel.

Nib (9)
Nibs on rollerball pens like this one are very cartridge-dependent. For that reason, I will just touch on the unmarked cartridge that came with this pen. The tip is very smooth and has no scratch and just a slight amount of feedback, which I think is a good thing. The width is slightly wider than that of the Pilot G2 0.38 tip and narrower than the tip of the Pilot G2 0.5.

Filling System (10)
This rollerball takes standard rollerball refills, and it does not get much easier than this. Those from Duke are quite inexpensive (about a dollar apiece). The pen came with one that is unmarked. I think that the standard Montblanc refills may fit, though I have not confirmed this. It would, of course, carry the similarities between this pen and the Montblanc Starwalker to a further degree, if such were desired.

Cost and Value (10)
For 6 USD, this is a very classy rollerball. I prefer to use fountain pens, but when a rollerball is needed, this pen does the job excellently. In addition, it looks great next to the Baoer Skywalker fountain pen, and I wish that they were sold as a set in a nice box.

Conclusion (10)
Searching for a nice-looking rollerball pen? Love Chinese pens that imitate pens of much higher price? Enamored with the appearance of the Montblanc Starwalker but not with the cost? For the aforementioned questions and a number of other reasons, I think this pen is great and a worthwhile purchase.

You can read my review of the fountain pen version of the Skywalker, here! This pen can be purchased from, here. This review was unsolicited and uncompensated. 

Feel free to post any questions or comments!

"You can never have too many friends & pens!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Review of the Baoer Skywalker Fountain Pen

First Impressions (10)
Wow, what a snazzy pen! I know that this pen is intended to look like a certain model of a certain famous German pen, and, at first glance, this pen  grabs the best of the similarities and provides a high first impression.

Appearance (8)
Upon closer inspection, the pen still meets my first impression, though a few things subtract from the overall greatness. Primarily, these design flaws (as I think of them) are in the cap. While the clip may be fairly strong, I found that the look of it was somewhat cheap and detracted from the sleek lines of the cap and body. That being said, I feel the same way about the clip on the Montblanc Starwalker (a pen very similar to this one in looks, though not in price). The other issue I had with the appearance was the floor of the glass dome in the top. It does not appear to be level with the rest of the cap. This could just be a quality control matter, consistent with the low cost of this pen.

Design/Size/Weight (9)
I was very pleased by the overall design of this pen. For having a mostly-metal body, the weight is sturdy but not overly heavy. Capped, the pen is heavier at that end, but, without the cap (and not posted), the pen is well-balanced. The cap may be posted on the threads at the end end of the body, and this only makes the pen slightly back-heavy. The one design element that could be improved is the plastic end piece on the barrel. Using metal, rather than plastic, might have improved the balance of the pen even further.

Nib (9)
This pen has one of the smoothest nibs I own! It is at least as smooth as my Lamy Safari fine nib, if not a bit smoother. The width is approximately a European fine, though the nib does have a bit of flex. It looks classy in a rather understated way, as the shiny, chrome-looking nib is simply stamped “Baoer” with some curving lines.

Filling System (9)
The Skywalker takes standard international cartridges (short or long), and mine came with a standard international converter. The quality of the converter is not the best, but it does function without any issues other than some less-than-smooth turning operation of the piston knob. I have also found that certain inks have a tendency to dry or stick in the feed after a few days of not writing with the pen, but running the nib under cold water for a second will quickly loosen the ink and get it flowing again.

Cost and Value (10)
I acquired this pen at the very low cost of 6 USD, and I would be quick to purchase another one of these for a gift or personal use. The price and overall value completely outweigh the few drawbacks.

Conclusion (9)
Overall, I feel that this is a very inexpensive and highly classy pen. If the look of the silver squares and glass dome are pleasing to you, then this pen is absolutely worth the money. The inclusion of a converter further sweetens the deal.

A review of the rollerball version of this pen will be coming soon! This pen can be purchased from, here. This review was unsolicited and uncompensated. 

Feel free to post any questions or comments!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Review of the Hero 001 - 360 Degree Fountain Pen

First Impressions (8)
This pen is sleek, and the concept is cool! The clip looks a little cheap, though.

Appearance (7)
The pen itself is slim, larger at the cap than at the other end. Aside from the cap looking cheap, the rest of the pen, including the chrome elements, look decent. There seems to be quite a bit of writing on the cap, including some characters that I assume are Japanese, “001” (for the model of the pen), “360” and the degree symbol, and “HERO.”

Design/Size/Weight (7)
Unscrewing the body from the section to get to the filling system is a bit rough. The metal does not thread together nicely. That aside, the cap fits snugly onto the body, and the grip feels comfortable in my hand, despite the slim profile, which is a feature that has been the downfall of other pens for me. The pen is light but has a core heft to it that reminds the user that this pen is made of metal and not plastic.

Nib (7)
The four-way, “360 degree” nib is partially successful. It does allow one to write from nearly any side of the pen, though sometimes it has to be rotated slightly so that one of the ink slits is in fully in contact with the paper. The nib is also slightly scratchy.

Filling System (6)
I had some trouble getting the aerometric filling system to draw ink into the sac without ejecting it on the next squeeze. Eventually, it did fill. The sac is fitted into the pen, so removing it for cleaning is not an option.

Cost and Value (8)
For less than 3 USD, this pen is inexpensive and unpresumptuous. Based on its performance and design, it is probably worth a bit more than this.

Conclusion (7.5)
This is a solid little pen and a worthwhile purchase, especially for those who are interested in trying a “360 degree” nib at a very low cost. That being said, I cannot see myself reaching this over other pens for a daily carry, even if they are some of the other Hero pens.

NOTE: This is (theoretically) the older version. The newer version of the Hero 001 appears to have a hooded, non-360 degree nib.

The Hero 001 - 360 Degree fountain pen is available in black, light blue, navy, and teal, and can be purchased from, here. This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Review of Noodler's Nib Creaper Flex Fountain Pen

First Impressions (7)
This is the October 2011 version of the Noodler’s Flex pen (as opposed to the June version, which had a different feed, though I cannot speak to the nature of the difference). I intentionally bought the Pumpkin Poltergeist color, as it was on sale, and I had wanted to try a flex pen for quite some time. The resin initially looks a bit brittle.

Appearance (7)
The chrome clip and cap band give this pen a slightly classy feel. Despite the piston not being hidden by a blind cap, it connects smoothly and flush with the rest of the pen. The ink windows are seamlessly integrated. The color of the pen is a swirl of black and gray in a mass of orange.

Design/Size/Weight (8)
As it is made of a resin, this pen is very light, yet it does not have the cheap feel to it that some plastic pens do. This pen feels as though it could take a beating. The grip is slender, yet comfortable for my large hands.

Nib (8)
This was my first experience with a flex nib, and this nib provided a pleasant experience. The design of the pen allows for adjustment of how wet or dry this nib is, and its fine to medium range provides a great variation of line width and smooth writing. It is not the smoothest nib that I have ever used, but it is quite good.

Filling System (9)
The piston filling system on this pen is easy. There is no blind cap to remove, no need to remove the body, and little to do, other than twist the end of the pen. It fills well and is very easy to clean.

Cost and Value (9)
For a daily-use flex pen, this offering from Noodler’s is a great deal, even at its retail price. At 14 USD, it is cost effective for someone, who is just interested in trying a flex nib for the first time.

Conclusion (8)
This flex pen is perfect. I felt no need to get a fancy flex pen in order to try a flex nib, and this pen provides the appearance and feel of well-designed quality.

This Noodler's Nib Creaper Flex fountain pen and other colors can be purchased from The Goulet Pen Company, here. This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Crafting a Pilot Plumix Neon "Franken-pen"

Yesterday, while browsing the Pilot Pen site for the EU, I discovered a product of which I had never heard before: the Pilot Plumix Neon. The general information site is here. The version of the Plumix available in the USA utilizes Pilot proprietary cartridges. The Plumix Neon from the EU takes standard international cartridges. From what I could deduce, this Pilot Plumix Neon is nothing more than the section from a Pilot Pluminix, which takes standard international cartridges, combined with the cap and body from a Pilot Plumix. Admittedly, the Plumix Neon also appears to be available in just as many colors as the Pluminix, as compared to the mere three colors in which the Plumix is offered (Blue, Purple, and Black).

As I was unable to find any Plumix Neon pens available on English-language websites, I decided to take matters into my own hands and craft my own Pilot Plumix Neon "Franken-pen!" My color options are limited to the three colors of the Plumix, so I chose purple.

Here is a close-up picture with focus on the sections of my Pluminix pen and one of my Plumix pens, side-by-side.

I proceeded to disassemble both pens, removing caps and bodies and leaving the nibs and feeds in their respective sections.

And then I swapped them! The Pluminix now can take proprietary cartridges from Pilot, and the Plumix can now take standard international cartridges, effectively turning it into a Pilot Plumix Neon.

Note: The threads on the Pilot Penmanship are different and do not accommodate such swapping. See this post, here, for information about swapping nibs between various Pilot pens!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Swapping Nibs between Pilot Pens - Part 1

Today, I decided that I should present you all with a guide on how to swap nibs between Pilot-brand fountain pens. First, the glaring question should be addressed: why would anyone want to do this? The simple answer is that it will give the user more options for nibs in their preferred pen body. As some of these pens take Pilot proprietary cartridges and others take standard international cartridges, the user may also desire to use a pen with a specific type of filling system and nib combination.

To begin, allow me to first clarify with which pens I know this modification works, their available nib sizes, their cartridge type, and where they are primarily sold.
  • Pilot Prera - Fine and Medium - Pilot proprietary cart. - Japanese markets
  • Pilot Metropolitan - Medium - Pilot proprietary cart. - USA markets
  • Pilot Penmanship - Extra-fine - Pilot proprietary cart. - Japanese markets
  • Pilot Plumix - Medium Italic - Pilot proprietary cart. - USA markets
  • Pilot Plumix Neon - Medium Italic - standard international cart. - EU markets
  • Pilot Pluminix - Medium Italic - standard international cart. - EU markets
Based on the look of the pen, I would assume that this modification would also work with the Pilot MR, which appears to be the same as the Pilot Metropolitan, available in the EU markets. (The other main difference is that the Metropolitan takes Pilot proprietary cartridges, and the MR uses standard international cartridges.) All other Pilot pens are either incompatible or unconfirmed.

From the above list, it can be seen that there are a lot of available combination options. The swap itself is relatively easy and can be performed in a few minutes or less. Here is a pictorial guide, utilizing a Penmanship, Plumix, and Pluminix.

First, remove the cap of the pen.

Second, get a good grip on the nib and feed and pull, gently. It may require some twisting back and forth (as though you were unscrewing the nib and feed from the section), but the nib and feed should come out together.

You will notice that, while the nibs may be interchangeable, the feeds are not entirely so, depending upon the style of cartridge that is used for the pen.

Choose which nibs you want to swap, lift them off the feed, and fit them back onto their "new" feed. Here, I am choosing to swap the Pluminix's medium italic nib for the Penmanship's extra-fine nib.

Once the nib is seated properly on the feed, fit the feed and nib back into the section, matching the middle of the nib with the middle, thin ridge of the grip. There is also a very small notch on the end of the section in front of the screw threads, which can be used to align the nib and feed with the section.

Your Pilot pen will now have its new nib installed, and you are ready to add ink and write! As pens like the Pilot Prera do not have nib units in other sizes available for them, purchasing an inexpensive Plumix or Penmanship is an easy way to acquire a compatible medium italic or extra-fine nib for your not-so-inexpensive Prera.

I hope you enjoyed this guide. Please post any questions or comments in the box below! Additionally, there is now a "guide" tag, by which you may view all guide posts on this blog!

Important links related to this post:
I bear no affiliation to any of the aforementioned companies, and I was not compensated in any way for this post.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Review of the Bodum Assam 0.5L Teapot

This review is a bit of a follow-up to my previous review of the Bodum Assam 1L Teapot (which can be found here). I had owned that teapot for a number of years, and it had always been one of my favored pieces of teaware. Yet, there were times when I needed teapots in multiple locations, needed a smaller teapot, or just needed multiple teapots at once. When I saw this pot at my local Peet's Coffee & Tea, I knew it would be perfect to fit my needs.
It has worked very well. My only complaint is how the lid of the filter sits in the top of the filter. It seems loose and often settles slightly lopsided.
The capacity is perfect for having a small bit of tea by oneself, and the construction of the pot is sturdy and quality.
The 0.5L next to the 1.0L
The Bodum Assam 0.5L teapot with high grade plastic filter can be purchased through the Bodum website, here, or from a number of retailers. Mine was purchased from my local Peet's Coffee & Tea. This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.

An Update on Platinum Preppy Nib Coatings

As you may recall, I wrote a post in November about the colored coating on the nib of my Platinum Preppy, and how it was beginning to flake off the metal nib. One reader responded with this information about the nib flaking, which I felt I should pass on to all of you:

This happened to me as well, though in a much shorter amount of time. The coating seemed to soften when in contact with ink. As the coating softened the nib creep got worse, which softened the coating more. Eventually I peeled most of it off the top and now there is no nib creep. I emailed someone at Platinum saying that I was worried that pieces of the coating would clog the nib and they responded that the coating would dissolve in the ink. Which would also explain why it peeled in the first place.

I certainly hope that Platinum develops a method by which this flaking may be remedied. The Preppys truly are great, inexpensive pens, and the colored coating is a great part of the draw to them.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Review of the Bodum Assam 1L Teapot

Today, I am changing things a bit and including an atypical, yet not off-topic, review for your enjoyment! As might have been evidenced from the title of this blog, if not also from some of the posts, here, I love tea. For me, having good, functional teaware takes the process of making tea from a chore to something I enjoy doing.

Enter the Bodum Assam. I actually purchased this 1 liter teapot over four years ago, and it has served me well over that long period of time. My first impression of this pot was how much it looked like a fishbowl. However, not to be dissuade by the humor (or the price, which may be a bit daunting), I took a chance and purchased it. With every subsequent use, I find myself more and more convinced that it is completely worth the money and may even become a daily-used item for others, as it did for me.

Not much has changed in the design of this pot, since I purchased mine, four years ago. There are now four different colors offered (black, red, lime green,  and off white), whereas, before, only black was available. Additionally, for a slightly higher price, a model with a stainless steel filter can be purchased. Bodum, also, now, offers a 0.5 liter version, which I will review soon.

This teapot may seem fragile, but looks can be deceiving. The handle is attached with a high quality glue that has never given me issues. While the walls may seem thin, this teapot has survived several drops on both linoleum and carpet (while empty). The glass also seems to be scratch-proof, though I have not used this pot in situations where such would be tested, aside from stirring the contents with a metal spoon, on occasion.

Another word on the glass: unless you drink a lot of tea quite quickly, intend to use this pot for entertaining guests or making cold tea, or utilize a tea cozy, a warning must be provided. I have not found that hot contents will remain hot for very long, even if the top of the pot is covered. In my experience, a full pot of tea will cool to lukewarm (or cooler) in about thirty minutes. That being said, filling the pot completely is not necessary, based on personal preference.

The filter is the one aspect of this pot that I feel could be somewhat improved. The high grade plastic is quite sturdy and dishwasher safe (as is the teapot itself). However, while using the press, the plunger on the filter will often not remain at its highest position. This does not impede the steeping of tea, but it does seem to be against the original design. Additionally, the lid on the plunger mechanism settles into the top of the filter quite loosely, which can make inserting and using the plunger a bit of a clumsy operation.  I cannot speak to the design of the stainless steel filter, as I have not had the opportunity to utilize it. (I tend to avoid any filter issues, all together, by putting my loose leaf tea in the pot without a filter, but this is, again, personal preference.)

Overall, I feel that this was one of the best pieces of teaware that I have ever purchased. The versatility and quality of the Bodum Assam is unmatched by many other teapots, and I highly recommend it for those, who are new or experienced with tea.

The 0.5L next to the 1.0L

The Bodum Assam 1L teapot with high grade plastic filter can be purchased through the Bodum website, here, or from a number of other retailers. (I bought mine from Peet's Coffee & Tea.) This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.