Monday, December 16, 2019

Review: Shibui 5-Pen Case in Saddle Brown Leather


When I started using and collecting fountain pens, I didn't realize that the hobby would include a lot of other products. A few months into the hobby, I learned that aside from adding more fountain pens to my collection, using these pens involves a lot of other fascinating products -- paper, ink, and carrying cases such as pen wraps -- or rolls -- and pen cases. For so many years, I enjoyed using a blue 12-pen flannel pen roll as my daily pen carry. The cloth was safe for my pens, it was easy to wash/clean, and it carried a lot of pens. But I realized I needed a smaller carrying case for only a few pens, too. I needed one that's sturdier and more secure.

During the 2018 Manila Fountain Pen Show, I came upon Shibui PH and their leather pen cases. It was love at first sight! Shibui's leather pen cases became one of my must-haves as a fountain pen user/collector. They are well crafted and looked like the perfect pen case that I needed! Two months later, I received Shibui's 5-pen case in lovely saddle brown leather. The pen case is beautiful, well built, and ready for the rough and tumble of being an everyday carry, or what we call our EDC. I was ready to use it and write a review, but my health held down everything for a while. For most of 2019, blogging, calligraphy, and my other hobbies were grounded as my body needed time to heal from surgery. I am now fully recovered and back to blogging and reviewing with Shibui's leather pen case as my comeback review before 2019 ends.

Shibui's white boxes — neat, simple, elegant. 

Shibui's products are packaged in large white boxes printed only with the Shibui logo. This careful, efficient, and elegant product presentation is very classy and truly impressive. Inside the box are the pen case, a small flyer with leather care instructions, and a postcard. The inside bottom of the box contains the Shibui brand philosophy, contact details, and their social media accounts.

The pen case inside Shibui's iconic white box.
Inside the box: flyer for leather care, postcard, Shibui brand philosophy, and their contact details.

Shibui pen cases are handcrafted by artisans in Bulacan, a province in the Philippines' Central Luzon region where leather crafting is a major industry. The leather used in their beautiful pen cases is locally sourced from either Bulacan or Marikina City in Metro Manila where specific cowhide colors are made for them. Unlike other companies that outsource their production, Shibui PH makes their pen cases in their leather making factory. Awesome!


Shibui pen cases have their own characteristics — no two pieces are alike and each carries its own look and personality.

The Shibui leather pen case looks beautiful out of the box. The full-grain leather is smooth to touch and has a rich earthy scent. The pen case has excellent stitching and a good quality zipper that is easy to reach. Shibui pen cases are all handcrafted from real leather, and each piece is unique — no two pieces are alike — in appearance and characteristics. I'm excited to see how this pen case will look after several months of use. The leather will surely develop a patina, a character marked by occasional scratches and darkened by the oils from my hand.

The full pen case fits inside my backpack comfortably. It's not too thick because the leather is not padded at all.

During their design process, the creators of Shibui wanted their pen cases to be strong enough to withstand the wear and tear of daily use. They thought of making the insides of their pen cases as sturdy and durable as its leather, but still flexible to accommodate different fountain pen sizes without the use of elastic bands. This led to the creation of the most unique feature of Shibui's pen cases — the Pull-Tag™ — an adjustable soft leather band holding the pens securely in their slots inside the pen case. Most pen cases use elastic bands for pen slots, but those become loose and are easily worn out through continued use. Shibui's Pull-Tag™ allows pens in any size and thickness to fit securely in their slots without any risk of pen damage due to tight elastic bands. Anyone who has a Shibui pen case can add and mix different pens safely in their EDCs!


Shibui pen cases are the only pen cases in the market with the Pull-Tag adjustable leather band.
The Pull-Tag replaces elastic bands that turn loose and are easily worn out due to daily use.
The zippers on Shibui's pen cases bear their logo. Love this!
This Shibui pen case accommodates pens in any size and thickness...
...without the risk of pen damage (scratches, cracks) that usually happens due to tight elastic bands. Each pen — thin or thick — fits comfortably in their slots. The leather band looks nice on the pens, too! 
This pen case has compartments, too! There's one which fits a pocket notebook or a small notepad, and two smaller ones for business cards, receipts, or tickets.

During the 2019 Manila Pen Show in November, Shibui PH introduced exclusive and limited edition leather 2-pen cases. The pen cases are made from 100% veg-tanned genuine cowhide leather. The pen cases are available in two variants and color combinations to represent the second pen show in the Philippines. The color scheme, on the other hand, is inspired by the new wave of the milk tea craze that took over the Philippines in 2019. The color combinations are The Classic, which has white leather on the outside, and brown leather on the inside; and The Brown Sugar, with brown leather on the outside, and white leather on the inside. These pen cases are still available from Shibui PH.

Exclusive and limited edition Shibui 2-pen cases for the 2nd Manila Pen Show.
(These 100% veg-tanned pen cases are still available at the Shibui PH website.) Photo from Shibui PH

Shibui PH products are designed and crafted by Filipinos whose vision has always been to create a brand that will promote Filipino leather craftsmanship to the world. Shibui's creators are firm believers of local craftsmanship and their goal is to enrich local industries and compete with other brands on a global stage. They envisioned a brand that will have a strong local and international following because they believe that providing jobs to Filipino leatherworkers means that more families can stay together and will no longer need to look for work overseas. This way, fathers can stay with their children, train them, and pass on the legacy of leather crafting to the next generation, a skill that is slowly fading as next-generation leather workers become interested in other endeavors.

My Shibui pen case's saddle brown leather is a perfect match for my brown Traveler's Notebook!

Aside from this pen case, Shibui offers 3-pen cases, an 8-vial case, Hobo Weeks Cover, A5 or A6 Notebook/Journal Covers, A5 or A6 Life Organizers, Travel Wallet, and Travel Organizer. To see (and buy) these amazing Filipino products, visit the Shibui PH website (https://www.shibuiph.com/).

In the Philippines, Shibui pen cases and other leather products are also available in the following stores: Scribe.ph (SM Aura, Glorietta 4, and Eastwood branches), Analog, Noteworthy (Podium, Rockwell, BGC, and Alabang Town Center branches) and Everything Calligraphy.

And did you know? Shibui PH has now reached the global stage! Overseas, Shibui leather pen cases are available in Malaysia (Pen Gallery), Singapore (Cityluxe), and the United States (Endless Pens). Shibui products will also be in Hong Kong and Korea very, very soon!

The Shibui 5-Pen Case in this review is provided by Shibui PH where it retails for PhP2,650 (~US$65). For more details on purchasing from Shibui PH, visit their website at https://www.shibuiph.com/.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

5 Questions with Jillian Joyce Tan, The Visionary Behind Everything Calligraphy and Vinta Inks

I have been using fountain pens for more than 10 years now, having done the shift to full fountain pen use in early 2008. Back then, most of us Pinoy fountain pen users had very limited local sellers of pen products to choose from. We considered ourselves lucky if we find fountain pen inks other than Quink, fountain pen friendly paper, or if we come across student pens in Recto.

Luckily for us, Jillian Joyce Tan, a fellow fountain pen user and member of our local group Fountain Pen Network Philippines started Everything Calligraphy, an online one-stop shop "happy place" for our local fountain pen community. Everything Calligraphy created their own products and brought in international brands such as Colorverse Inks, Field Notes, Franklin-Christoph, IWI Pens, Jinhao, Nemosine, Opus 88, and Robert Oster, among others. Today, EC, as we fondly call it, carries more than 50 local and international brands offering fountain pens, ink, paper, and accessories. Fountain pen enthusiasts await their annual anniversary sale where they offer products at discounted prices, and free demo lessons and ink buffet.

Last March, Jillian launched Vinta Inks, a brand of ink proudly produced in the Philippines using locally sourced pigments meant for fountain pens and calligraphy. Though I did not make it to the launch party, I chatted with Jillian a few weeks later and asked her a few questions, five of which are published here.

Jillian at the successful launch of Vinta Inks in March.

How did Everything Calligraphy start?

Jillian: Actually, the first brand I started was Elias Notebooks. Sometime around 2015, I was frustrated by the lack of good quality paper that would be compatible with fountain pens. So I searched for a good local source for fountain pen-friendly paper and that’s how Elias was created. Four years later, the brand expanded to carry notebooks, leather pen cases, pad papers, and so much more.

It was when I was working on Elias Notebooks that I decided to come up with an online store that would become a one-stop shop for all pen aficionados like myself, where they can purchase everything they would need from pen, paper, ink, to cleaning materials. I wanted to curate the products to feature quality materials from all over the world to be accessible to Filipinos whatever his or her budget is. And they don’t need to leave the house to find these items.

Elias pad papers are locally manufactured. Each pad has 80 sheets of acid-free 90 GSM paper and well-loved for the paper's tolerance to bleeding and feathering and ability to show the shading properties of fountain pen inks. These pad papers are available as blank, dot grid, or lined in small and large sizes at EverythingCalligraphy.Com

EC also offers Elias Notebook Inserts for Traveler's Notebook. Available in two sizes (regular and passport), the inserts have 40 pages of 90gsm acid-free paper that is suitable for fountain pens, calligraphy, and sketching. These inserts can be bought as one or as a set of three at EverythingCalligraphy.Com.

How big is Everything Calligraphy?

Jillian: Contrary to what some might think, the EC team is very small and we’re hoping to expand. In fact, we are looking for an operations manager, marketing manager, and custom relations officer. If anyone is interested in applying, they can email their CV to jillian@everythingcalligraphy.com. Currently, our team of six is very shorthanded and we’d love for more people to join us.

Everything Calligraphy joins craft festivals and shows. This was the EC table during the Craft Mania at Shangri-La Plaza in 2016.
Everything Calligraphy's Ink Buffet during their Anniversary Sale in September 2018. The famous Ink Buffet is on a long table covered with Elias Paper with sample vials of around 50 ink brands that EC offers from J. Herbin to Robert Oster. EC offers uninked Pilot Parallel pens so attendees can try the different inks on the table. They are also allowed to dip their uninked pens in the sample vials.


























How do you select brands/products to include in Everything Calligraphy’s product line up?

Jillian: This is a great question! The primary selection of products stems mostly from the customers. Sometimes they introduce us to different brands as requests or specific ink colors they want to see more of. I also always read posts on social media and listen to what people look for. And personally, I love trying various products when I travel and if it passes quality control, then we decide to carry them.

Opus 88 Demonstrator pens were first offered in the Philippines by Everything Calligraphy. Get them from EverythingCalligraphy.Com.
IWI Pens Essential (top) and Handscript (bottom). Another brand that was introduced by EC to local fountain pen enthusiasts is IWI Pens from Taiwan. Get them from EverythingCalligraphy.Com.

You've been selling fountain pen inks from various brands at Everything Calligraphy for a while now. Why did you come up with the idea of creating your own fountain pen inks?

Jillian: Because people see the same team behind both Everything Calligraphy and Vinta, they tend to assume that they’re one and the same. I cannot emphasize enough how the two are separate brands. On one hand, EC’s goal is to curate the world’s best selection of writing materials into one store where Filipinos can purchase them. On the other hand, Vinta’s goal is to reach an international audience. Simply put, their trajectories are completely opposite each other. With Vinta Inks, I want to show the world that we can make world-class quality inks right here in the Philippines. And at the same time, I want to share a little bit of our history to the world and tell them more about this great, if sometimes, vexing country.

"Take a dip and write away." Proudly made in the Philippines, Vinta Inks are available in 10 beautiful and exciting colors. Get yours at VintaInks.Com.
Jillian with Dr. Jose Dalisay, Jr., founder of Fountain Pen Network Phillipines during the launch of 
Vinta Inks in the Philippines in March 2019.

How do you envision Everything Calligraphy in the next 10 years?

Jillian: Within the next ten years, I want Everything Calligraphy to have a bigger team. I hope to include more brands into the store, especially start-up brands both local and international. Hopefully, we can transfer to a bigger office as we’re pretty cramped right now. Our customers might even want to see us open a retail or pop-up store. 
Everything Calligraphy's ink table during their Anniversary Sale in September. 

Through the years, Everything Calligraphy has been true to its promise of building the most comprehensive writing paraphernalia store in the Philippines and continues to add new brands to their offering to make fountain pen use and collecting more interesting to Pinoy aficionados. To see their brand offerings, visit EverythingCalligraphy.Com.

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/.
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