Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Notebook Review: Life Pistachio A5

If you use fountain pens on a regular basis, you probably understand the huge challenge of finding suitable, fountain pen ink-friendly paper. When I shifted to full fountain pen use in 2008, the stationery market in the Philippines had a very limited selection of fountain pen-friendly paper brands to offer.

When Scribe Writing Essentials began offering fountain pen-friendly paper products, it was a joy to walk into their stores and see shelves filled with Midoris, Rhodias, TWSBIs, and just recently, LIFE and Tomoe River Paper. Scribe has kindly given me two samples of LIFE products to review, a soft-covered, ruled Noble Report in A4, and a ruled Pistachio notebook in A5, both with excellent, superior paper quality.

The LIFE Stationery Company was established in Tokyo in 1946. The company is dedicated to producing paper products of excellent quality, with all products done by hand. LIFE's stationery line features timeless, simple, and elegant designs, together with superior and excellent paper quality. The Notemaker Journal Blog has a beautiful feature on the story behind LIFE Stationery, if you want to read more about the company.

LIFE Pistachio notebook cover

The Pistachio is a sibling to LIFE's Vermillion notebooks, a simple, yet high quality notebook. Its light green cover has an old-school look, with a patterned border and spaces for information printed in bright green and dark red.

The Pistachio Notebook's pages with 7mm ruling in bright green.

LIFE's Pistachio notebook is available in three sizes: A5 (8.3 x 11.7 inches), B6 (4.9 x 6.9 inches), and A6 (4.1 x 5.8 inches). The A5 Pistachio is available with either ruled or grid inside pages, printed in bright green ink. The ruling is a bit wide for me at 7mm, while the grid is just right at 5mm. Each notebook has 32 sheets (64 pages) of stitched, rather than stapled, superior quality Japanese paper.

Pen and ink tests on Pistachio notebook. No feathering at all, and the green ruling is not bothersome at all.

This simple-looking notebook's most amazing feature is LIFE's high quality paper. It is smooth, and simply a joy to write on. It is also resistant to feathering and bleed through, which means I can write with my fountain pens (or any pens) on it. The paper is also acid-free, to preserve its contents for years to come.

Back of the test page. There is ghosting (show through), but there is absolutely no bleed through! 

See? No bleed through! Even if I wrote with my wettest writers (Pelikan BB and B), iron gall ink (Lamy Blue Black), and the notorious Noodler's Baystate Blue.

I recommend LIFE Pistachio notebooks to anyone who wants to experience writing on excellent quality paper. Aside from their excellent quality, LIFE notebooks are also reasonably priced.

LIFE Stationery products are available in the Philippines exclusively at Scribe Writing Essentials. The Pistachio A5 is sold at P185, and the A6 at P175. To get LIFE's paper products, visit any of Scribe's stores in Eastwood Mall, Shangrila Plaza Mall, Glorietta 5, SM Aura, and SM Megamall. Their 6th store has just been opened in SM City Cebu last month. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, click here.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fountain Pen Review: 2016 Lamy AL-star Special Edition Charged Green

The 2016 Lamy AL-star is now in the Philippines!!! Here is Charged Green, this year's special edition Lamy AL-star, and my favorite green pen from Lamy, so far.

Lamy has a new packaging system, using compact cardboard boxes instead of bulky plastic ones. An elastic in the felt-lined bed inside the box ensures that the pen stays in place and will not be scratched. The box is easy to store and does not take up too much space. (Yes, I keep my pens' boxes.) Last year's special edition Safari and AL-star pens came in similar compact boxes, too.

Charged Green AL-star pen box. 

The Charged Green AL-star pen in this review is a fountain pen, but the line also includes a ballpoint and a rollerball. In the last three years, Lamy has been coming up with special edition ink colors to match their special edition pens. This year, the Charged Green AL-star fountain pen has an accompanying Charged Green ink available in T52 bottles and Giant ink cartridges that fit most Lamy fountain pens. A Charged Green ink-x eraser is also available.

Of all the green Lamy pens that I have seen (and owned -- I still have to see the original and first issue Lamy Safari), the Charged Green is the most beautiful. In fact, my first thought when I took the pen out of the box was how beautiful it is. The anodized aluminum finish has a beautiful golden-green color that is bright, but does not hurt the eyes. It is an elegant color that is happy and cheerful.

The AL-star (and the Safari) is a nice pen for all fountain pen users -- newbies/beginners, collectors, students, artists -- even a Princess uses a Lamy! At 22 grams and 5.5 inches (capped), the AL-star is a well-balanced fountain pen: not too short, but not too long, either. It's not heavy, but not light. It's just right, and comfortable to use.

The pen's barrel has an ink window that shows the ink converter or cartridge inside. It allows me to check on my pen’s ink level without having to screw out the barrel from the section. The AL-star's cap is round, but two sides of the barrel are flattened. The Lamy logo is etched in one side of the barrel, towards the end.

The AL-star's signature triangular section grip is a helpful feature especially for newbies. Others find the section grip uncomfortable and annoying, but it is designed to make writing easier, so users have a firm grip on their pens while writing. An anti-slipping brake near the end of the section prevents the user's fingers from slipping into the nib while writing. Unlike the Safari pens’ matching body and section materials/colors, AL-stars have transparent gray plastic section.

The great thing about Lamy fountain pens is the interchangeability of their nibs across most of their product lines. The AL-star shares the same feed and nib with the Safari, Vista, Joy, Nexx, and Studio. AL-star fountain pens bought in the Philippines have medium nibs, but other nib sizes are available: extra-fine, fine, broad, and left-handed. The AL-star can also be fitted with an italic nib ranging from 1.1mm to 1.9mm.

Lamy's proprietary piston operated Z24 and Z26 converters can be used to fill the fountain pen with ink from a bottle, but the Z24 is a more suitable converter because it has two tiny nipples that fit snugly into the small grooves in the upper part of the section. When the nipples are fitted in the grooves, the converter stays in place, preventing messy ink spills. Giant ink cartridges are also available for use on the AL-star in Lamy's regular ink colors and also in Charged Green.

A lot of people including myself, have asked for long why Lamy has too many green pens. Aside from the first Safari, Lamy's Safari line has four green pens (Lime, Green, Neon, and Neon Green), and there are three more in the AL-star line: Silver Green, Blue Green, and Charged Green. I collect Lamy pens, and though different tones and shades of one color look cool in pictures, I sometimes wish Lamy would do a different blue for the AL-star, like, perhaps an aquamarine AL-star? A yellow AL-star would be cool, too!

Why so many green pens, Lamy?
Charged Green AL-star with two green AL-stars: Blue Green (2014) and Silver Green (2008)

The Charged Green AL-star looks a lot like an aluminum version of the 2008 Safari Lime.
Lamy AL-star fountain pens (from top): Aluminum, Graphite, Silver Green, Silver Blue, Ocean Blue, Black Purple, Ruby Red, Pearl, Blue Green, Copper Orange, and Charged Green. Still missing Coffee and Raspberry.

The Charged Green ink matches the 2015 Special Edition AL-star fountain pen. It is equally vibrant, bright, and cheerful, but I find the ink too bright for regular, everyday writing. When I wrote with the Charged Green ink in my Lamy AL-star with medium nib, it wrote too light, and I could barely read what I wrote. I changed the nib to a 1.1 stub, and though the writing was readable, I still found it too light for readability.

The 50ml Charged Green ink is in a Lamy T52 bottle that comes with a roll of ink blotter to clean the pen after filling, or blot writing. The bottle has a small basin at the bottom, to allow filling when the ink level is low.  

Lamy Special Edition inks: Neon Green (2015) and Charged Green (2016)

Below are swatches of the Charged Green ink together with other green inks. Because it is lighter than most green inks, the Charged Green will be more suitable for art, or highlighting.

The Charged Green ink looks dark in the photo below, but it is a very light ink. Despite that, it is well-behaved, with excellent flow and lubrication. Shading is visible when used in wide nibs (1.1, at least).

I love the Charged Green AL-star. It is versatile (interchangeable nibs), simple, minimalistic, and helpful to newbies (triangular section grip). The metallic finish has a special glow that brings warmth and brilliance to the Charged Green AL-star. The AL-star may be prone to scratches because of its material, but given the proper care, these pens will last for a long time.

If you haven't gotten one of these Charged Green AL-stars yet, go get one now!

I received the fountain pen in this review at no cost from Lamy's authorized and exclusive distributor in the Philippines, Times Trading Company.

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 AL-star Charged Green  fountain pen and ink (and other Lamy products) are made available by Times Trading Company, through their kiosks at National Bookstore branches around Metro Manila.

Lamy products are also available at Scribe Writing Essentials, a specialty store offering fountain pens, inks, and paper products, Eastwood Mall, Shangrila Plaza Mall, Glorietta 5, SM Aura, and SM Megamall. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, visit http://www.scribewritingessentials.com/stores/.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fountain Pen Review: Kaweco Student Transparent Blue

After sharing my review of the orange Ice Sport with Kaweco's Sales and Marketing Team, the manager, Sebastian Gutberlet, arranged to send me a small package of sample products to review on the blog. The box from Nürnberg arrived safely in Los Baños, and to my surprise, it had Kaweco ink cartridges in all colors, a Denim pouch for two Sport pens, and a selection of Kaweco pens, including this beautiful transparent blue Student fountain pen.

I have always known Kaweco for their small pens — which I think are cleverly designed. The short Sport and tiny Liliput — extended by posting their caps — are wonderful pens. But Kaweco also makes full-sized pens, such as DIA, Elite, Allrounder, Special, Elegance, and the Student.

I look at the Student as an introduction to Kaweco's range of full-sized pens. It is closely similar to the aluminum-bodied Kaweco Allrounder, but is made from high quality acrylic. Think of the Student to the Allrounder resemblance as that of the Safari to the AL-Star.

When I received the pens, I noticed that Kaweco's packaging for the Student is simple, yet unique: the pen came in a long Nostalgic tin, encased in a cardboard sleeve. The tin has a lovely vintage design, and can fit one or two pens. It's a reusable box, and will hold more pens and other stuff once the tray is removed.

The cardboard sleeve for the Kaweco tin.

And has a tray with slots for two pens. Once the tray is removed, the box can hold other stuff.

The Student is made from high quality polished acrylic, while the section and trims (clip, cap ring, finial) are chrome-coated brass. It weighs ~26 grams (with a full short cartridge), and measures ~5.2 inches while capped, 4.7 inches uncapped, and 6.3 inches when posted.

The Student when I disassembled it: cap, barrel, section, feed, and nib.

The Student is a bottom heavy pen because all of the brass trims (finial, clip, cap ring, section) are in that part. The cap alone weighs 16 grams, the barrel and section at 10 grams. The barrel without the pen's section is very light, is wider in the middle, then tapers off towards the end.

Sebastian sent me a fountain pen to review, but the Student is also available as a ballpen, or rollerball. This pen fills with ink through a converter or a cartridge, and I inked it with the Royal Blue cartridge which came with it.

Kaweco uses the same finial (top cap) design for most of its pensThe Student's finial is in chrome, bearing the Kaweco logo. While this finial is the same as the finial on the Sport, the Student's diameter makes it appear smaller.

 The photo below shows the underside of the top cap.

In other pens, the branding is all over the barrel. The Student, however, has it all in the cap. The Student's chrome clip — identical to the Allrounder's clip — has the Kaweco logo. The clip is tight, but slipping it on or taking it out of a pen slot is not a problem at all.

On the top part of the cap, opposite the clip, 'Kaweco Student Germany' is printed.
On the chrome-coated cap ring, the imprint says 'Kaweco'.
On the other side, the imprint is 'Germany'.

Bock, a German nib manufacturer, makes nibs for Kaweco. The nib imprint includes the width (B), logo, and the words 'Germany' and 'since 1883' under a filigree-like pattern. For the Student, nib availability ranges from extra fine (EF) to double broad (BB).

I requested a B nib for this pen, and thoroughly cleaned both the feed and nib before inking, to take off any residue from manufacturing. The steel B nib wrote well, it is smooth, wet, and did not skip when I wrote with it. Some line variation was possible with a little pressure, but I didn't push it further because it's not really a springy nib. But it's not a nail, either, and I love writing with it.

The Student's section is a heavy part of the fountain pen. It is made of brass, made smooth by the chrome coating, and I little flared towards the nib. It's cold to the touch, and because it's so smooth, my fingers sometimes slide towards the nib.

I didn't notice this before, but Kaweco's feeds have imprints too!

Kaweco uses the same feed and Bock nib for many of its fountain pens, which allows users to easily change their pens' nibs. It is the same feed and nib for all the Sport series, the Liliput, Student, and Allrounder.

Left to right: Liliput, Student, and Sport. They have identical feeds and nibs.

As I mentioned above, the Student measures ~5.2 inches, a length that I find comfortable enough for writing without the need to post the cap. The Student allows posting, but it becomes unusually long at ~6.3 inches, and a bit top heavy.

The Student is longer than the Sport by an inch, and by ~1.5 inch than the Liliput. Uncapped, though, the two small pens become full-sized pens when their caps are posted.

The Student with my blue demonstrator pens. It's a bit shorter than the Platinum 3776 and Noodler's Ahab,
but longer than the Pelikan M205.
Here's the Student with other pens.

Here's a writing sample of the Kaweco Student, filled with Kaweco's Royal Blue ink. The ink is a vibrant blue with hints of purple. It shows minimal shading, but flows well. It's a truly well-behaved ink.

The Kaweco Student is a light pen, and very comfortable to use for long periods of writing. It's a well-balanced and well-built pen, a reliable writer, and though I find the nib a bit small for my writing style, it's fun that I can swap nibs between pens. The Student is an elegant and beautiful fountain pen and I am happy to add it to my growing collection of blue demonstrator pens.

The Student and other Kaweco pens are widely available in many reputable sellers worldwide, with prices ranging from US$58 to US$65.

In the Philippines, Kaweco pens are exclusively available at Scribe Writing Essentials, where it sells for PhP2,995 (~US$62).

I received the Kaweco Student fountain pen in this review free of charge from Kaweco Germany. For more about Kaweco and their products, visit their website at http://www.kaweco-pen.com/en/index.php.
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