Pelikan M200 Clear Demonstrator

Impulse purchase alert!

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At least it’s a gorgeous one.

How to tell if it’s an impulse: it’s the same model as something you already have, in the same nib size, and just a different colour. (It’s probably worse if you have two absolutely identical pens, but why would anyone…? Right?)

I thought I’d wanted a fine nib but my penchant for “as fine as possible” won out in the end, and I paid the €10 more for the EF, resulting in me now owning two M2xx EF pens. Not that it’s anything to complain about, since the colour is strikingly different from the M205 Amethyst

There are actually two versions of Pelikan’s clear demonstrator: an earlier release from 2000 also called the M201, and this release from 2012. The earlier one has a black piston housing and a black cap band around the finial. With either of these, though, the ink still sloshes around in a very satisfying manner, especially if there’s a light colour within; my first inking of this pen was with Robert Oster Peach.

The gold plating in this pen is slightly less yellow than in the two Sailors I’ve reviewed; there is a comparison photo in last week’s article. The nib, as expected of Pelikan, is a little wider than a Western EF, but really smooth and (after I washed it in some soap to get rid of manufacturing oils) a wonderful writer.

 

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Any shading ink looks incredible with this pen!

The amount of spring on Pelikan steel nibs has always amazed me and this is no exception. With some pressure you can get pretty good line variation — be careful, though!

Nagasawa Penstyle Proske Demonstrator (Sailor 1911 Standard)

Under £120 ($157) for two Kobe inks and a store-exclusive Sailor is a deal that really shouldn’t be passed up. The Kobe inks (at 61!) cover far wider ground than most other premium lines, and are far more consistent across the whole range than all makers. 

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This came with a gold-plated converter, too; I got them mixed up…

What you get for your money (after taking away the price of the two bottles of ink) is an exclusive pen for less than RRP. The cap band differs from the regular Sailor pen by being thinner — it doesn’t extend all the way to the lip. The etchings on it also say NAGASAWA PenStyle instead of SAILOR JAPAN FOUNDED 1911. It functions as any other Sailor would: with their shockingly small converter (~0.6ml) or a cartridge. Either way, no fuss.

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A perfectly tasteful amount of bling.

The nib itself has completely different scrollwork: Nagasawa’s logo takes pride of place instead of the anchor logo, with 14K below that and then a Sailor logotype. The nib size designation goes on the left edge, as is typical with Sailor. The border is also a simpler single-line design instead of the curly edge found on other nibs.

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A simple design, executed very well.

The rise of the Jinhao 992 and similar models of Chinese knock-off beg the question: if you can get a purely functional pen for 99p, why pay a hundred times that? The answers always come back to the same handful of things: build quality, quality control, design, and experience of use. In my opinion, owning both (the Jinhao will be reviewed at a later date), and knowing full well that one can be cheaply sacrificed while the other costs a good few hours’ pay… I still bring the Proske around. The writing experience with a Sailor nib is simply far beyond anything a Chinese pen can offer.

The extra-fine nib on this is absolutely wonderful. I enjoy my nibs very fine, and Sailor’s famous feedback is thus even more evident here. Yet it still writes smoothly, and the feed provides enough ink to keep the pen moving across more textured papers like Rhodia or Fabriano. Tomoe River simply bends to the nib’s will like grass in the wind.

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A 5mm grid means the x-height of the text is less than 2mm!

Overall, this is a deal I hugely recommend, both in terms of aesthetics — I think this looks better than the regular Sailor 1911 — and the fact that you get two bottles of ink with it. What better way to get started on a Kobe ink collection?

Pilot Décimo Mitsukoshi LE: Kira Karacho 1624 (2016)

It seems that every other fountain pen user has some variation of a Pilot Capless, be it the full-size Vanishing Point or the slimmer Décimo. I knew I wanted something special, since I’d gone this far without buying a basic model, and had been eyeing the Namiki-branded Raden VPs for months, trying to convince myself to stump up the cash for one. But then this came along:

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Clicky clicky.

…Japanese second-hand sites are incredible.

Though the website I scored this off claims that this pen is out of a production run of 75, the 2017 Mitsukoshi limited editions are made in a run of 100. As the pen itself is unnumbered, I can only assume that the seller made an error. There is also another version in ivory/white design and gold trim that causes really painful pen envy in me when I see a photo pop up online. This year’s versions are superb as well.

Much ink has been spilled (ha!) over the clip position on both types of Capless, and I have only this to say: for anyone considering buying one, it is a must to try before you buy. I had the fortune of trying the VP, to check if the clip would sit properly in my grip. At any rate, a standard triangle grip should have no problems with the clip, and I have also found it possible to hold the pen such that the clip sits beneath the index finger.

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No problem with me!

The nib comes in three different trims (gold, rhodium, and black) and mine is a fine nib in 18k gold. They’re also available in “special alloy” which are significantly cheaper, though if you’re shelling out for the technology that goes into the Capless, you might as well go the whole hog and get a gold nib. The best thing about them? They’re swappable!

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Nib assembly (with Pilot Metro converter).

The pen takes CON-50 converters (and thus CON-40) but I like to use it with the Metro’s squeezy converter. I’m not a stickler for being able to view the ink level, but if that’s important to you, in addition to a large ink capacity, the only way is to syringe-fill a Pilot cartridge. There’s a metal cap that comes included with the pen, to add some weight when using a cartridge. 

All the Pilot nibs I’ve come across have been uniformly excellent, and this is no exception: even with its tiny size, there’s a nice amount of bounce, and though the line is slightly thicker one would expect from a Japanese fine, there is a very clear and precise sensation when writing, even on smooth papers like Tomoe River. Here is a writing sample on slightly more textured Fabriano EcoQua:

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A flawless writing experience!

And as for the little cloud design on the body, that’s the hallmark of Kira Karacho 1624, a Japanese department store which teamed with Pilot to release the 2016 pen show exclusives:

Faber-Castell e-motion Pearwood

Following on from last week’s Faber-Castell another one managed to make its way into my collection:

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Half a cigar?

The e-motion is a bit of a confused beast: it wants to be a metal pen, and in some of its incarnations it succeeds better at that, but the wood barrel reminds me of some of Pilot’s Vanishing Point variants. The cigar shape conflicts a little with the engineered lines of the metal and the clip looks like it deserves a more modern-looking pen. But it still manages to hold together somehow, and when you uncap the pen, you’re rewarded with one of Faber-Castell’s amazing steel nibs.

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There’s space in the barrel for a second cartridge.

Like the other steel-nib offerings the e-motion is a cartridge/converter pen, but unlike the Loom, it actually comes with a converter. I’ve swapped that out to use some J. Herbin cartridges, because those little tins are absolutely adorable.

The nib on the e-motion is easily removed and swapped out for other Faber-Castell nibs, and performs admirably as expected. Smooth and juicy, no problems at all, and it wrote beautifully out of the box. The wood of the barrel helps the hand keep a nice grip on the pen, especially when (not if — this is a major gripe) the section becomes slippery during writing.

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Zero problems with writing.

In fact I might swap the body for an Ambition once I stump up the cash, but otherwise, I kind of like the heaviness of this pen: since most of my pens are on the light side, it’s nice to pick up something really weighty sometimes.

As to nib swapping: the EF nib that was in last week’s review actually first arrived with this pen…

Faber-Castell Loom Violet

Returning to the subject of more easily-acquired pens, here’s a modern review!

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Looks pretty sleek to me.

Modern pens don’t always look modern — here’s looking at you Pilot — but this is one which does, and not expensively so! Faber-Castell are often overlooked in the lower range because their top-end Grafs take the spotlight, and for whatever reason, Pilot and Lamy seem to have almost-complete control of the entry-level market. But a Loom can be had for under £25, which is firmly in Al-Star territory (and even Prera if you get lucky). 

What you get for that money is a solidly built cartridge/converter pen: the body is made of a matte-finish aluminium, and the section is made of plastic that is identically finished. That fact alone swung me towards this pen instead of the slightly cheaper Basic. The raised rings on the section stop it from getting slippery. The cap is plastic, too, but this is also finished in the same manner as the body. There is a smooth version of the barrel as well as several really bright colours for the cap, but I found this just right for me.

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Cartridge/converter pen, with easily-bought nib units: what’s not to like?

Somehow Faber-Castell has decided it’s a good idea to sell the lower-end pens without a converter. This is a minus in my book, but I have also been syringe-refilling cartridges, so your mileage may vary on this point. (The one in the picture above was given to me by a friend at the London monthly meet-up.)

The most important part of the pen performs incredibly, though, and if not for the body, this would be Pelikan-priced! Faber-Castell sources its nibs from JoWo, but the design on this is unusual: there is no breather hole, and the scrollwork is replaced by a series of pits that give it a really modern look. The nib size and the Faber-Castell logo are the only other things on the nib. You can buy nib units separately too; they just screw in and out of the section.

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I really like this design.

And when I started writing with this I was cured of ever recommending Lamy to anybody ever again. My vote still goes to the Metro, which is an old favourite of mine, but for anyone eschewing the cigar aesthetic, the Loom is next on the list! As a plus point, it doesn’t force you to use a triangular grip. The nib itself is smooth: almost buttery, in fact, without being too wet — a real extra-fine line, almost able to compete with Pilot fines. And the firmness is great on toothy papers like the Fabriano below: 

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Fantastic control and feedback too.

Last point: I find the way the threads of the metal barrel and the plastic section mesh perfectly together very very impressive. The German engineering that seems a little missing with Lamy is in full evidence here. Washing up is always a breeze.

 

Summit Cadet Model S-100 (c. 1929)

After paying a couple times for pens to get restored, how better to dive deeper into this rabbit hole than trying it out for myself?

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Unassuming eBay find.

I took a gamble on this because the nib looked like it could possibly have a little flex. Either way, a £17 pen shipped needing what looked like a fairly basic restoration couldn’t hurt my wallet too bad if it failed, so I put in what turned out to be the only bid on this pen!

It arrived and there was no sac, and the pen needed some care. I took everything apart; testing the nib out against my thumb indeed revealed that it had a satisfying amount of flex, though I decided I would wait after it was restored to ink it instead of going for the dip. I ordered a small bottle of shellac and what I hoped was the correct size of sac (the measurement was taken with a transparent plastic ruler).

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Nib shot. After polishing, the celluloid really sparkled!

When the goods finally made their way to my desk, I pulled up Richard Binder’s excellent guide and had a go very carefully. While waiting for it to dry, my research gave me a good start date for production and revealed that the S-100 was the lowest end of a series of Cadet pens made from 1929 onward. The fact that really caught my eye, though, was that Summit nibs were often firm nibs, which means that I had really lucked out on this one!

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Easy flex on those swirls, too!

I definitely consider this a success for my first attempt at restoration! Now I’m curious about their stiff nibs, though I’ve yet to come across another Summit in real life. The London pen meet that I frequent has tons of Conway Stewarts and Mabie Todds, and though the old hands know of Summits, none of them own one.

This is the second of three pens in chunky red celluloid that I own. A third review to come — but for now, here’s a group shot!

TWSBI 580AL Pink (modified!)

This pen was bought specifically for modding, after reading several reviews from people who have successfully hacked some pretty cool nibs onto their pens. Here we go:

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Simple demonstrator design, very vape-looking.

Other than having the odd creaky-piston moment, my 580AL works very well, and at under £50 due to Christmas sales, it was a bargain indeed. I got mine from Bureau Direct, who managed to get it to me in a couple days despite the seasonal mail crunch.

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The barrel, a little colourful bit, and the nib assembly.

The stock nib is a #5 Bock, which I ordered in medium. I’m sure it’s very good and smooth like others have said, but the truth is that I never inked it up. The whole unit is made to be swappable with other Bock units, but the nib and feed are also friction-fit. So I pulled it out and stuck in a spare FPR flex nib that I’d got at their last sale, and it wrote pretty well, though I did have to deepen the ink channel just a little for the feed to keep up with the flexing.

My final aim was to house my vintage Mabie Todd nib for greater ink capacity and less mucking around with eyedroppering a fragile 100-year-old specimen. But the feed was far too long; Mabie Todd’s #2 is significantly smaller than Bock’s #5 (or Pilot’s #5 for that matter). To this end I was inspired by Leigh Reyes’s amazing post, and though she didn’t post a step-by-step or anything, she described her process enough for me to dare to replicate it. The cost of messing up a feed is the same as buying another TWSBI nib unit, so I wasn’t overly worried — plus at that point I already had experience modifying my far more expensive Pilot Custom feed!

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From left to right: the three nibs that have been in this pen.

From the picture above it’s easy to see how much shorter and slimmer the vintage nib is compared to the stock nib and the #5.5 FPR flex nib. As such I had to shorten the feed by about 1.5mm and shave it down so that its tip would be the same thickness as the uncut version. This was to prevent the feed touching the paper when I flexed the pen. And of course the ink channel needed more deepening and scraping out, which I did very very carefully. You have to err on the side of extreme caution, because there’s no going back once you’ve gone too far!

And I was rewarded with this beauty:

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Look at that flex. No pushing needed!

The demonstrator look is excellent, and easily being mistaken for a vape is hilarious. (I consider this a feature, not a bug.) It is well built for its price, and its customisability is incredible. The included wrench obviously encourages one to tinker as well!

Pelikan M320 Ruby Red

Uninked and new in box for less than $200 is a ridiculous price for this, and how could I resist?

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Chunky celluloids are amazing to look at!

This is a seriously tiny pen by modern standards. The smallest of the five Souverän sizes, this is Pelikan’s pocket-pen offering, though it’ll never inhabit one of my pockets. It’s far too precious for that!

The M300 is regularly available but the five different M320s were produced as special editions from 2008–10. To my eyes,the Ruby Red has the finest colours, and the translucent cellulose acetate is really quite something to behold…

How small is that nib?

A larger version of this exists as the M600 Ruby Red special edition, though the cap on that has the newer all-gold finial design. The gold-on-black finial was phased out a few years ago and for a pen that looks like the M320’s older, bigger brother you’ll have to look up the far rarer M620 Madrid from the Cities series, which has a noticeably deeper red in its material.

The black/gold finial is exquisite.

The nib on mine originally came in a very Pelikan medium — practically a broad — though the tiny 14k two-tone nib had a surprising amount of bounce! The modern nibs I have used on the M4xx/6xx/8xx sizes have all been fairly firm, but the M320 M nib I got was almost as soft as the one that was on the M1000 I tried out once.

It writes absolutely beautifully; I had the nib ground into an extra-fine by John Sorowka. The amount of spring on the nib is great!

With normal pressure, a subtle variation is pleasantly achieved.

Because of its small size and how much tipping it has, it almost functions like a Sailor Naginata-togi nib now! But a comparison with its original incarnation as a medium nib is quite something to behold

Pilot Murex

More than 40 years after its creation, this design still looks sleek and modern.

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Grail #2!

I jumped on one on Reddit for $200 and it came in excellent condition, save for a little cosmetic issue with the feed (more on that later). I already had money set aside for it and had been looking for it fairly half-heartedly on eBay — many of them were going for more than $400 new. But it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time for mine!

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The pen’s functioning bits.

The pen itself is a cartridge/converter model, but what really sets it apart from Pilot’s other metal offerings is the shape of the nib. Melded right into the section, the breather hole and tines are part of the same piece of steel. This makes the nib impossible to swap out, of course, but it’s possible to dissemble the nib assembly into section+nib and feed along with a couple other smaller parts. 

The snap cap is tight and very well designed, with the clip separately sprung so it moves quite freely and the MR logo pre-dating the Metro by several decades. (See featured photo for close up.) The pen tapers into flat ends on both sides, making it slightly shorter than the Metro.

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Urushi-coated feed, showing bubbles.

Now about the cosmetic issue: the pen came looking practically new, with the sticker still in place. It’s rubbed off a little since I started using it, but the main “problem” was that the urushi had started bubbling due to moisture and heat. Apparently this was a common problem, but it doesn’t affect the ink flow at all, and lends a touch of attractive imperfection to an otherwise robotic-looking pen. But, as always, here is a writing sample on Fabriano paper — and it wrote far better than I expected it to:

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It looked like it might have been scratchy… but no!

As the nib is literally part of the steel, it is very firm with no bounce at all, but the way Pilot has shaped the tipping means there is a very smooth line. It absolutely flies over Tomoe River but even on toothier paper (like Fabriano) there is almost a sense of enjoyment at how it glides around with no hint of scratchiness. Definitely something to pick up, if one comes across your path!

Look at that point! The Murex looks like it could draw blood. I promise I haven’t tried…

Pelikan 400NN Brown Tortoise (1950s)

I jumped on this one because Pelikan no longer makes anything near the range they used to have, both in terms of pen shapes as well as nib types:

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Look at the rounded cap finial and piston knob.

The 400NN was developed after the 400N was a “neu” version of the old 400, which looks like the modern M400. The finial and knob gradually got rounder, finally arriving at the rather cigar shape above. The binde of the vintage tortoise variants also varies far more in colour and evenness compared to the modern browns on the M400 and M800 pens; mine shades from dark brown to as light as yellow and green in some places — to my eyes, much closer to a tortoise’s patterns than the rather averaged-out modern colours!

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Such a beautifully uneven brown binde!

It arrived clean but definitely shows signs of age and wear: the finial is rubbed fairly smooth, not to mention the brassing on the clip and the cap band. The nib itself is in excellent condition though it has a slightly stubby quality, which is a sign of long periods of intense use.

Indeed, it was the nib that attracted me to the pen. Pelikan used to make a range of italics and obliques and “ballpoint” (Kugel) sizes with different sorts of tipping, and this dates from the era of pre-ballpoint carbon papers, when special nibs were made to withstand larger pressures without flexing. Mine is a DF (Durchschreib-Fein) nib, or a manifold fine, and comes in almost as fine as my Japanese pens — no modern Pelikan “fine” here! It is a single-tone 14k gold nib and has shorter tines. Unusually enough, it also has two breather holes. 

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Old-school cool: the DF nib.

In writing on Fabriano paper (below), the pen gives a very pleasant sort of toothy feedback — a sign of wear — and yet absolutely glides along on Tomoe River paper. As with my other Pelikan fines, it writes on the drier side, but is wet enough here to show the shading in Oku-yama. The pen itself is light to hold, as one would expect from the rather small 400 size. And while it is very firm, it does not feel like a nail…

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My most even fine nib!

A size comparison (in featured photo) places the 400NN as intermediate between my M200 and M620s, which is only to be expected. More delicious photos in better lighting here: