Posts Tagged ‘Fountain Pens’

The moleskine phenomenon has been very strange. They’re an extremely popular notebook, often for very silly reasons. I won’t go into the company’s largely bogus claims that its product is the same kind of notebook that Chatwin, Hemingway and a bunch of Left Bank poets used. The very clever marketing of Modo & Modo, the company that brought the notebook (or something very similar to it) back in 1998 after a 12-year hiatus and — most importantly — bought the rights to the name moleskine, has given people the impression that if they get one, they’re tapping into some tradition of creativity.

They are, however, good notebooks, and anything that is a pleasure to write in increases creativity. But there are a number of very common complaints. They are that the covers are not durable enough, especially at the top and bottom of the spine. Another is that the paper is not very good for fountain pens. Flexible pen nibs will result in feathering and will bleed through to the other side of the page. Another complaint is the price. Here in Greece, the small one goes for about 12€ and the large one for 16€.

There are a lot of imitation moleskines by companies trying to cash in on the craze, but they almost always fail to capture all the advantages that moleskines have.

But yesterday I found one that’s even better than the “original”. It’s by GREENAPPLE. More on that later.

It has everything the moleskine has: the elastic band, the pocket at the back, the bookmark; the only thing it doesn’t have is the form on the inside cover to write your name and address, which is hardly necessary anyway. The cover is much more durable, since it’s not oilcloth, but a sort of fake leather, and the binding is much stronger. Even the elastic band is better. If it has any disadvantage it’s that it opens up only slightly less flat than molelskines do. But only very slightly less.

The paper is the same cream colour, and is perhaps a little thicker. Unfortunately, it’s not any better for fountain pens. I inked up my old Waterman Ideal, which has a very flexible nib and a very wet line, and it feathered and bled through. I used my Lamy AL-star, which is an ideal fountain pen for moleskine paper, and it was fine. In the picture it seems to have bled through, but it really hasn’t.

Now, here’s the best part: the price. The small notebook was a mere 3.80€ and the large one only 6.80€. They come in different colours, too. There’s a blue one, a dark brown-nearly black one, and a nice burgundy coloured one.

And here’s the worst part: I can’t find them online anywhere. I’ve been able to find a company that produces Green Apple notebooks, but they don’t seem to have this particular notebook. I’m not even sure if it’s the same one. The logo doesn’t seem to be the same.

If anyone knows anything about this company or this notebook, please let me know. They produce a very good product for a very good price, and deserve to be more widely known.

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Last summer I gave up on my fountain pens. It was getting too difficult to find paper that didn’t let the ink bleed through. I kept fussing over my pens. I bought a 1947 Parker 51, which wasn’t working as well I’d been expecting, and my Duofold had stopped working entirely. I decided to stop wasting time and just use ball points. Lately I had even started using roller balls pens. But every once in a while, I’d read about some fountain pen I was interested in, and the itch to get another one would come back. But I kept resisting.

One of the pens I’ve wanted for quite some time is the Namiki Vanishing Point fountain pen, also known as the Pilot Capless. It’s an unusual fountain pen, the only one of its kind. It has no cap, and its nib is retractable, as these two pictures show:

Last week I was walking up Benaki Street and I saw one in a shop window. I went in and asked to look at it. I ran the nib across some paper and across the back of my hand — the latter is something I do with all uninked pens I pick up. I can feel how smooth the end of the nib is that way. This one was very smooth, probably smoother than any other I’d ever felt. The next day I went and bought it.

What impresses me is how it’s both smooth and sturdy. The nib is 18 karat white gold and has just a little flex.

The main reason that I bought it is that I’d been reading that they could be used in Moleskines without feathering or bleeding through. I like using Moleskines. I find the cult surrounding them ridiculous, but at the same time, I can understand it. In an age when people do most of their writing on computers, or some other kind of machine, more and more people are enjoying a return to something simpler and more basic, and something which can carry their own personal character in it: their handwriting, their sketches, doodles, whatever. The marketing of the notebook even satisfies some people’s desire to be participating in some kind of tradition: they’re using the notebooks that Picasso, Hemingway, Van Gogh, and Chatwin used. (As several people have pointed out, they’re not. No one has commented on the irony that the makers of the notebook themselves point out that le vrai moleskine n’est plus.)

I like the notebook because it’s handy. I like the elastic band that keeps it closed. I like the binding that keeps it completely open. I like the sturdy hard cover. I like the acid-free paper, but wish it was more fountain pen friendly. I’ve been lucky with mine. I’ve managed to do a lot of writing in them.

When I’m writing, I have to enjoy the physical act. It may seem silly, but it’s no sillier than writing made-up stories about people who have never existed. If I’m using a ball point pen that makes my handwriting look horrible and has blotchy ink, I’m distracted from what I’m writing. If the pen skips or scratches the paper a little bit and makes even a little bit of noise, it distracts me. No matter how absorbed I am in what I’m writing, I can’t forget that I’m actually holding a pen and gliding it across some paper. (If things are going well, and it’s a good pen, it glides. Other times it just drags and scrapes.)

A few nights ago I noticed that in the month since I started this notebook, in which I’m only writing my novel, I had written over fifty pages. For me this very productive. And there’s a lot more in the previous notebook. I wanted to mention that here, because I often complain about my writing not going well, about not having enough discipline, there being too many distractions. And because that’s why I haven’t been posting much. I’m interested enough in the plot, subject matter and characters that the pen has been gliding a lot, even when I was using a cheap ball point or roller ball.

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Fountain Pens

I’ve liked fountain pens ever since I was a young kid. I like what they do to my handwriting. I prefer to write with them whenever I can. What prevents me is often the fact that most paper nowadays is not good enough, and the ink feathers or bleeds through. I was excited when I learnt Moleskine notebooks were being produced again, but their paper is horrible for fountain pen ink. Clairfontaine is the best, but sometimes hard to find, and usually expensive. Here in Greece, the most reliable paper is produced by Skag, although they seem to have stopped producing simple spiral notebooks in favour of a lot of goofy stuff they seem to think will appeal to kids.

My first fountains were all Sheaffers, which, it was announced last year, will no longer be made. They were cheap, sometimes leaked, but they wrote well. Back then, when I was under ten years old, I used to use ink cartridges. For some reason I liked their turquoise ink, peacock blue.

When I was in university I bought a Waterman Expert of a particular line which has been discontinued. Waterman were very good about replacing nibs and stuff for free, as long as you paid for the postage. A few years ago I wrote to tell them that my pen, which was over ten years old, needed a new cap. Since they didn’t have the pen any more, they asked me to send the whole thing to them and they’d replace it. I didn’t like the new one as much — the nib was not flexible enough — and I stopped using it.

Then I did something very stupid. About three years ago I bought a Montblanc, which I’d wanted for a long time. If I had done a bit of research on the internet before I shelled out all that money, I would have found out that very, very few fountain pen users actually like the pen. They rightly consider it to be nothing more than an overpriced bit of pocket jewellery.

I bought the Meisterstuck 146, a burgundy one. It’s very nice to hold, and holds a lot of ink, but the feed (responsible for ink flow) was crap. It would skip all the time. Another problem is that body of the pen is made of some expensive but fragile plastic, and breaks very easily.

Eventually, I gave up on the Montblanc, and found a website that sells vintage pens at good prices. My first pen was this Waterman’s Ideal from the 1930’s.

The nib is very flexible, which gives it a lot of line-width variety. Waterman’s used to be made in London, but moved to France in the 1950s, where they lost the apostrophe and the s. They’re owned by Gilette now. Nothing comes close to what they produced back then though. It has a lever filler, which can be made out in the first photo. Lifting the lever presses on the sac inside. When you release it, ink is drawn in.

I’d found my pen, but I couldn’t resist buying one more.

This is the Parker Slimfold, from around 1970. It’s quite small, but the nib is beautiful. Not as flexible as the Waterman’s, it produces a thicker line. It also has an Aerometric filler. I don’t know how it works, but the Aerometric sac allows the nib to be submerged in the ink while you repeatedly press on the filler to squeeze air out and ink in. (If you don’t understand why this might be hard to understand, sorry but I’m too lazy to explain it at the moment.)

Today I decided I’d get out the old Montblanc and see how it was writing. I noticed fine cracks all over the “precious resin”, which is what they call the cheap plastic used to make the body of the pen. The cracks look like what you see on old porcelain enamel. In one spot, the ink is starting to show through.

I decided to bore anyone who made it this far today because I notice people come to this site just because they’ve googled something I’ve mentioned. If someone is doing research on Montblanc pens, and is thinking about getting one, let this be a warning. They’re a huge waste of money.

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