Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Fountain Pen Review: Conklin® Duragraph™ Amber

Have you ever seen a fountain pen so beautiful you can't forget it? Me, I have a list of these hard-to-forget fountain pens, and it includes the beautiful Conklin® Duragraph™ in Amber. I first saw a Duragraph™ Amber fountain pen in one of our local pen meets. I was just beginning to collect orange fountain pens then, and the Amber truly captivated me, but it was a few years later that I received one to review. In a conversation with Pen Chalet, they mentioned that they could send a Conklin® Duragraph™ for a review. I happily chose one in the beautiful Amber finish.

The first Duragraph™ fountain pen — a lever filler — was launched in 1923, and was considered to be 'the definitive' pen. Conklin named the model by combining the words durable and graph, thus, Duragraph™. An old American brand established in Toledo, Ohio in 1898, Conklin™ was revived by Yafa, Inc. in 2009. For the pen's 91st anniversary, Yafa, Inc. introduced a new Duragraph collection that brings a fresh, modern style to the timeless oversize flat top design. Crafted from quality hand made resins, the Duragraph™ is substantial in size, yet not so large to be unwieldy in the hand.

Conklin® Duragraph™ Amber fountain pen in box.

The Duragraph™ comes in a sturdy and classy blue leatherette box lined with soft, rich satin where the Conklin® logo is imprinted. A small elastic band holds the pen in place inside the box. Together with the Duragraph™ fountain pen, the box also contains two short international ink cartridges, an ink converter, ink refill instructions, a business card, and the Yafa Brands Warranty card.

The box also includes ink cartridges, a converter, and cards for ink refill and warranty.

The Duragraph™ collection is offered in seven beautiful finishes: AmberCracked IceForest GreenIce Blue, Orange Nights, Purple Nights, and Red Nights, paying tribute to the design of the first Duragraph™ pens. The Duragraph™ is also offered as a ballpoint accompanied with a refill and accepts the Monteverde USA® P1 and P4 refills.

The Duragraph™ Amber's color is a unique mix of orange and black with silky swirls of gold. This color combination brings warmth to the beautiful Duragraph™ Amber, enhanced by the translucent glossy resin. Under bright light, the nib and section ring are visible through the cap and the converter inside the barrel.

The translucent glossy resin of the Duragraph Amber is just beautiful. In bright light,
it has an exceptional sheen and shimmer.

The Duragraph™ fountain pen measures 5.6 inches long and weighs 28 grams capped and with a full converter. Without the cap, it is 4.9 inches long and weighs 14 grams with a full converter. If the cap is posted on the pen, it becomes uncomfortably long at 6.9 inches. This is the reason why I do not usually post my pens. Posting makes pens uncomfortably long and top heavy, but the Duragraph™ is a regular-sized pen and it can be used comfortably without the need to post the cap.

The Duragraph™ Amber's barrel, section + converter, and cap.
That's Robert Oster Orange Zest in the converter.

It is indeed helpful that the Duragraph™ can be fully taken apart. The threaded Conklin® converter can be easily disassembled, too.

The barrel has a black finial towards the end, separated from the body by a chrome ring. When the fountain pen is uncapped, and the barrel is separated from the section, one is left with the converter and the nib and feed assembly (holder, feed, and nib). Using a rubber grip, I was able to take out the screw-type nib and feed assembly from the metal section. I pulled out the nib and feed from the collar for complete disassembly. Disassembly was easy, but I won't recommend it to newbies to avoid breaking the feed, collar, or nib. 

I love pens that can be fully taken apart, such as the Conklin® Duragraph™. I always disassemble pens for thorough cleaning, even drying, and a complete look at their section, feed, and nib. Cleaning pens before reinking or storage is always a must for me.

Conklin® Duragraph™ Amber parts (from top): cap, barrel, section, piston driver, converter, piston rod/shaft, converter ring, collar (nib and feed holder), feed, and nib.

The clip of the Duragraph™ is a bit stiff, but it holds the pen securely in place and allows the pen to sit low in the pocket because it is mounted on the top cap. The cap of this pen bears Conklin®'s branding. The Conklin® logo is neatly engraved on the raised cap ring's clip side, and printed in white on the cap finial. On the other side of the raised cap ring, the pen name, Duragraph™ is engraved in the famous model script font, with six small crescent moons — three on either side — a trademark symbol of the Conklin Pen Company.

The Conklin® logo is neatly engraved on the clip side of the cap ring.
Duragraph™ is engraved on the other side of the cap ring, with three crescent moons on either side.
The original Conklin® logo is embellished on the cap finial.
The beautiful translucent barrel of the Duragraph™ Amber without a converter inside.
The converter inside the pen's barrel is partly visible here. See the ink bubbles?
The threads in the Duragraph™'s barrel and cap. The resin's mix of colors in this pen
is beautiful and truly amazing.

The Duragraph™ can be filled with ink using standard international cartridges or through a converter, both included in the box. The threaded converter screws onto the section for a secure fit, preventing ink spills when the converter is accidentally pulled out. The metal section of the Duragraph™ adds to the durability and stability of this pen.

The Duragraph™ converter has threads so that it screws onto the section for a more secure fit. This converter is from a Monteverde Prima, but it's exactly the same as the one on the Duragraph™.

The Duragraph™ is offered in a choice of fine, medium, or stub nibs. The two-toned Duragraph™ medium nib is engraved with the "Conklin®" brand name and “Toledo USA” mark, while the nib size is engraved on the nib's right shoulder. What makes this nib unique is the crescent-shaped breather hole. The medium nib on this pen is smooth and it writes well, but I was surprised to see that it does not write the same Western medium width that I am used to. It's not a soft one, but it's definitely not a nail. It gave me a couple of hard starts in the beginning, but I remedied that with some tweaks to the nib and feed and by using ink with good lubrication.

The Conklin® Duragraph™ nib has a unique crescent-shaped breather hole.
The Conklin® Duragraph™ is a full-sized pen similar in length and diameter as a Lamy AL-star or TWSBI ECO.
Uncapped, the Duragraph™ is shorter than the Lamy AL-star and TWSBI ECO,
but it's still comfortable to write with.

The Duragraph™ is my first Conklin® fountain pen, but it definitely won't be the only Conklin® in my collection. Designed as a traditional flat top, the Duragraph™ is a full-sized pen that is well built, fits in the hand well, and is comfortable to use. There are seven beautiful finishes to choose from, and a variety of nibs to go with each pen. 

I am happy with the Duragraph™ Amber and will recommend it to those who want to explore and know the brand. This is a great pen, and I will consider getting another one in the future. I'd like to get one in the Orange Nights finish, because, well, it's orange, and I read that the Duragraph™ Orange Nights is Yafa's homage to Delta's Dolcevita line. Get one for your collection.

The medium nib on this Duragraph™ is not soft, but it's definitely not a nail.
It's comfortable to use for long periods of writing.

The Conklin® Duragraph™ in this review is provided by Pen Chalet where it retails for US$65. For more details on purchasing pens from Pen Chalet, visit their website at https://www.penchalet.com/.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fountain Pen Review: 2018 Special Edition Lamy Safari All Black

Lamy has completed its trio of matte-finish Safari pens with All Black in 2018. After launching Dark Lilac (2016) and Petrol (2017), Lamy added its darkest Safari to the limited/special edition pen series. Lamy's 2018 Safari pen is called All Black, and it has a black clip, nib, finial, and section/grip.

I have a fountain pen, but the All Black Safari collection also includes a rollerball and a ballpoint. In 2014/2015, when the neon Safari pens (Neon, Neon Lime, Neon Coral) were launched, Lamy started calling the year's Safari and AL-star pens as 'special edition' instead of 'limited edition.' The Safari and AL-star pens after that period were then called special edition pens. The Special Edition All Black Safari in this review is from Lamy's authorized and exclusive distributor in the Philippines, Times Trading Company.

All Black Safari fountain pen in its special edition box.
A T10 ink cartridge and a new Z28 converter are included in the box.

Lamy released the All Black Safari fountain pen in a packaging similar to that of the Dark Lilac (2016) and Petrol (2017). Instead of the old, bulky plastic pen box, Lamy now uses laminated cardboard boxes with the year's color theme for their special edition pens. The laminated pen box is enclosed in a plain white sleeve.

Last December, fans and fountain pen collectors waited for the 2018 Safari color with wild guesses on which color it would be. The wait seemed endless to some, but when Lamy finally announced that the 2018 Safari will be 'All Black,' mixed comments flooded fountain pen groups all over the world. I, too, was a bit baffled by Lamy's choice of color because there are two black Safari pens already -- Charcoal/Umbra and Shiny/Glossy Black. When I received the pen, I was surprised that the new All Black is unique and totally different from the previous two black pens. But, yes, it's ALL BLACK.

Lamy Safari is a student pen, often called 'starter pen' by fountain pen enthusiasts. The All Black Safari with its matte finish is still made from the sturdy ABS plastic – the same material used in Lego blocks, keyboard keycaps, refrigerator walls, and the filament commonly used in 3D printers. Designed by Wolfgang Fabian, the first Safari was presented during the 1980 Frankfurt exhibition (read more in Lamy's Company History) and has been in Lamy's regular production since then. Despite some fountain pen enthusiasts' low regard for this plastic pen, many fans around the world collect the Safari and its aluminum cousin, Lamy AL-star.

Some people dislike the Safari's triangular grip, saying it is uncomfortable and annoying. This feature, however, is designed to make writing easier — it helps users to get a firm and secure grip on their pen. An anti-slipping brake near the end of the section prevents a user’s fingers from slipping into the nib while writing. I do not find the triangular grip uncomfortable at all. I actually do not notice it when I'm using my Lamy fountain pens.

Lamy's interchangeable nibs are very useful. A Safari fountain pen uses the same feed and nib as those on the Vista, Al-Star, Joy, Nexx, and Studio. Due to the color difference, my nib options for the All Black is limited only to a broad nib from an older Safari. Safari fountain pens bought in the Philippines have medium nibs, but other nib sizes are available: extra-fine, fine, broad, and left-handed. The Safari can also be fitted with italic nibs ranging from 1.1mm to 1.9mm.

The anodized black nib of All Black Safari fountain pen writes smoothly out of the box.
The triangular grip is meant to 
help beginners, but some people find it uncomfortable.
All Black's finial (cap top) is the same as those installed in Dark Lilac and Petrol Safari fountain pens.

The All Black Safari's parts are barrel, section (grip + feed + nib), converter, and cap. The Z28 converter (a newer version of the Z24) was included in the box, together with a T10 ink cartridge. Safari fountain pens measure 5.5 inches when capped, 5 inches without the cap, and 6.5 inches if the cap is posted. It's a lightweight pen and can be used for extended periods of writing. The cap with the oversized clip is 2.5 inches long, the length from the nib to the converter is 4.6 inches, while the barrel measures about 3 inches.

The proprietary piston operated Z28 converters are used to fill Lamy fountain pens with ink from a bottle, but T10 Giant Ink cartridges are also available.
I had fun disassembling the All Black Safari and Z28 converter. I often do disassembly of my fountain pens to thoroughly clean the section, feed, and nib before inking/reinking.

All Black (top) and Charcoal/Umbra (bottom). Notice the difference in shade? All Black has a deeper, darker shade, while Charcoal/Umbra is lighter, looking almost gray in bright light.

Barrels of the All Black (top) and Charcoal/Umbra (bottom).

Even their nibs are different! The nib on All Black is darker than the one on Charcoal/Umbra.

Lamy introduced the Z28 converter in 2015/2016. I got the Petrol with a Z28 converter but did not write about it. The Z28 is an update to Lamy's Z24 converter. A proprietary converter, Z28 still got two nipples on either side for a secure fit inside the pen. See photos and captions below for more details about the Lamy Z28 converter.

The metal ring on Z28 (bottom) has changed to chrome matte finish, compared to the Z24's black finish. The new converter's tube is clear/transparent, while the previous one is frosted.

The Z28's turning knob is more square and matte finished. Also, the Lamy logo is now debossed on the Z28, while the logo on the Z24 is embossed.
The Z28's bottom is also different than the Z24's flat end.

The new trio of Lamy Safari fountain pens in matte finish: Dark Lilac (2016), Petrol (2017), and All Black (2018).

The medium nib on the All Black Safari writes smoothly out of the box. I inked it with Lamy Black ink. Lamy did not release a new ink this year as they already have a black ink in their collection.

Lamy Safari through the years.
Limited and special edition Safari fountain pens from 2008 Lime (topmost) to the 2018 All Black (bottom).

Similar to Dark Lilac and Petrol, the All Black Safari is a unique Safari. The dark color of this pen is eye-catching and a sure standout in any pen case. It's a different Lamy Safari, and another one to add on to my Lamy Safari collection.

The All Black Safari is a special edition pen, so you better get one now. It's almost sold out, and to date, Lamy will not be making this special edition pen anymore. Go get yourself one now!

Lamy Safari pens are widely available from pen sellers worldwide. For a global search of Lamy retailers, visit: http://www.lamy.com/content/find_a_retailer/index_eng.html.

In the Philippines, the All Black Safari (and other Lamy products) is exclusively distributed by Times Trading Company, and available in leading bookstores and stationery specialty stores nationwide. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Fountain Pen Ink Review: Honest Ink Ultramehrine

Honest Ink Ultramehrine by Straits Pen

Last October, our local fountain pen group, Fountain Pen Network Philippines, organized the first-ever Manila Fountain Pen Show. Members of the group, guests, and local sellers of fountain pens and related products were present during the much anticipated one-day fountain pen show. Straits Pen, a company from Singapore was also at the show with their store-exclusive inks, notebooks, and fountain pens. Straits Pen produced the Manila Fountain Pen Show's special edition exclusive ink, Manila Copper.

I was excited to visit Straits Pen's table at the show because of their blue inks. I wanted to get their store-exclusive Noodler's ink Blue Straits of Malacca and the newly-launched Honest Ink Poorman's Sapphire. I was only able to get Poorman's Sapphire because Blue Straits of Malacca was already sold out. But Ng Lip Sing and the Straits Pen group offered me a bottle of a still-unreleased Honest Ink for review.

I appreciate details such as this one. Most of us throw away the boxes that our ink bottles came with, not knowing that the box helps prevent the ink from fading due to exposure to bright light and heat.

Straits Pen's Honest Ink is a very young ink brand. The ink series is the company's significant move to becoming a manufacturer from being a distributor and reseller of fountain pen inks. Most ink manufacturers are from other parts of the world, and Southeast Asia seemed poorly represented. As a Singapore-based maker, Straits Pen wishes to bring colors and approaches to the market that people from the region would recognize as being from their "neck of the woods." The ink colors' names such as Bougainvillea Purple is a message to the world that Straits Pen is part of a wave of makers that are embracing their own traditions and bringing Southeast Asia to the world.

Not even a year old, the first season of four ink colors was launched in August, during the San Francisco International Pen Show for the US market. The batch includes Poorman's Sapphire, Shitty Sepia, Sad Stormy Swedish Sea, and Happy Accident Lilac. The inks were again launched twice in Japan at the Tokyo International Pen Show and at Itoya's INK.ink.ink! event in September. In October, Honest Ink was launched in the Philippines at the Manila Fountain Pen Show.

Honest Ink is still young, yet the second batch of four new colors is already awaiting their launch. One of the colors in the second batch is Ultramehrine, and the Straits Pen group is thinking of a launch during the Singapore Fountain Pen Lovers Pen Show in 2019. While Honest Ink has been released in different places already, it has not been introduced formally to the local fountain pen community in Singapore. The upcoming pen show in Singapore is the perfect opportunity to launch the inks. The group will also launch the second batch of Honest Ink at the next San Francisco International Pen Show.
Honest Ink comes in a simple no-fuss bottle with a simple no-fuss label.

Ultramehrine is a deep, dark blue fountain pen ink with purple tones. This ink has moderate flow and excellent shading (see writing and calligraphy samples below) which is very visible when used in fountain pen-friendly paper such as our local Victory notebooks. Ultramehrine is not waterproof, however, but it doesn't stain, and I was able to easily clean it off a Lamy Al-star which was used in my writing samples.

The people at Straits Pen named their inks Honest Ink because these inks reflect the reputation that the group has made over the years. They believe in selling honestly, and in telling people the truth about the products they sell. They do not only tell customers about the upsides of a product, but they reveal the bad points as well -- which is evident in the story behind the name Ultramehrine.

According to the group, they wanted an ultramarine ink color, but initial tests were underwhelming --  the color was a subdued dark blue rather than the brilliant ultramarine blue that they want. The resulting color was still a good dark blue, and they decided to use it, even though they felt the ink was 'meh.' And this is how the name UltraMEHrine was created.
Swatches of Honest Ink Ultramehrine.

I love blue inks, and I had so much fun testing this ink (See the tips I used in swabbing inks for this review.). I like using fountain pen inks which surprise me and Ultramehrine did. In the ink swatches above -- details below -- the single layer/single pass swatch is already a nice handsome blue, but note that the double layers swatch is not only significantly darker, it has a distinct poignant character, and I'm thrilled that this same depth is what I see in my writing samples from a 1.1 Lamy nib.

Ultramehrine up close, single layer/single pass. It's a nice, handsome blue ink!
Two layers of Ultramehrine give us a poignant, dramatic dark blue ink.
I'd love to use this ink in my journal entries!
Ultramehrine's drying time. From a Lamy 1.1 nib on Victory paper, it took 12-13 seconds to dry.

I have a wide selection of blue fountain pen inks, including some dark blues which are similar to Ultramehrine. I find Ultramehrine to be very close to Noodler's Midnight Blue, Diamine Sargasso Sea, and Rober Oster Midnight Sapphire. All these inks are beautiful dark blues, but I have stopped using the heavily saturated Sargasso Sea after it stained a converter. Ultramehrine is a dark blue ink but it's not heavily saturated at all and has not stained the two fountain pens I have inked with it.

Honest Ink Ultramehrine is very close to Noodler's Midnight Blue and Diamine Sargasso Sea.
Among the Robert Oster inks that I have, I find Ultramehrine to be closest to Midnight Sapphie.
Here's a (long) writing sample of Honest Ink Ultramehrine. I wrote this using a Lamy Al-star with 1.1 nib on local Victory notebook. 

I love shading inks, and I'll take shading over shimmer or sheen anytime. But, does Ultramehrine fountain pen ink shade? I tried this ink using 1.1 and 1.5 Lamy italic nibs to see its shading, and I was not disappointed. Ultramehrine is a shading ink, and when I tried it using the 1.5 Lamy nib for italic calligraphy, the ink color became more dramatic and meaningful.

It's confirmed. Ultramehrine is a shading ink!
This is Ultramehrine in italic calligraphy using a Lamy 1.5 nib. Excellent shading, beautiful color.

Ultramehrine is a blue ink that every fountain pen user should have. It's a versatile dark blue that is suitable for business or art purposes, or even for daily journaling and notetaking. It doesn't stain so I'm sure it won't clog pens. Overall, it's a joy to write with.

Right now, we don't see the Honest Ink selection in the Straits Pen website. The group said they cannot put it on the website yet because they do not have enough bottles to sell at the moment. Well, I think they should hurry up. These inks are sure to fly off the shelves fast as soon as they become available online.

After my week-long visit in 2011, Singapore became a special place for me. That visit opened my eyes to new horizons, new opportunities, and to more knowledge about the world. Singapore is even more special to me now because of Straits Pen and Honest Ink.

I received the ink in this review for review purposes at no cost from the Straits Pen group during the Manila Fountain Pen Show in October. The Honest Ink selection is available for purchase at Straits Pen in Singapore. Their office is located at Office Block 212 Hougang Street 21 #04-349 Singapore 530212.
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