Monday, April 17, 2017

Fountain Pen Review: BENU Classic Ghost White Silver


Since 2008, I have reviewed a number of fountain pens from Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. I have also reviewed pen-related products from Australia, China, France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Now, for the first time in Rants of the Archer, I am honored to write the first-ever review of BENU Pens' Classic fountain pen, an emerging and promising pen brand from Russia.

I came across BENU Pens in October last year, a few months after the Moscow-based brand was launched. I was impressed by their wide selection of vibrant pen colors and material textures. I saw colorful, shiny, and pearlescent pen barrels, some of which have gold and silver inserts. In March, I was surprised to be discussing pen reviews with one of BENU's founders, Kate Dmitrieva, who let me choose three pens to review at Rants of the Archer.

Fountain pens from BENU's Classic Collection: Turquoise Blue Silver, Midsummer Bronze, and Ghost White Silver.

One of the pens I chose was a white pen, and Kate sent me the Ghost White fountain pen in silver trims. It was love at first sight. The Ghost White fountain pen is elegant, sophisticated, and classic. I am excited to review this beautiful and unique pen, but before that, here is a short glimpse into my fascination with Russia.

I have always loved reading even as a young elementary pupil, and my fascination with the country began with reading books, and looking through an old, tattered world map in our school's small library. Russia's vastness mesmerized the 10-year-old me, and I believe Robert K. Massie's words summarized my fascination: "So immense were the Tsar's dominions that, as night began to fall along their western borders, day already was breaking on their Pacific coast."

It was a book which I salvaged from a trash can near my high school that truly stirred my interest in Russia. Frederick Forsyth's The Devil's Alternative was both entertainment and education, and I was left craving for more. That led me to Ludlum and Clancy. In college, I hang around with the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov for several semesters while I studied classical conditioning. But it was Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov that eventually took me to St. Petersburg.

Snippets from Fyodor Dostoevsky's novels.

Recently, a friend tagged me along when he joined the postcard exchange program Postcrossing.com. The postcard exchange took me on a virtual tour of Russia. I saw churches: The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, St. Basil's Cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior; and monasteries: Novodevitchiy Monastery and Kurskaya Korennaya Pustyn. I also saw the State Historical Museum, the Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge across the Neva River, and the Moscow Kremlin.

From Russia with love: postcards and fountain pen.

I read and learned about Russia through literature and postcards, but my conversations with Kate and the pens that she sent brought me closer to the country. And to Pavlov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov.

BENU Pens is a young pen company launched in early 2016 by co-founders Alex Semanin and Kate Dmitrieva with one goal in mind: to make writing instruments and desk accessories for those who prefer bright colors and new designs that are playful, stylish, and fun.

Alex and Kate previously worked together in Russia's fine watch industry. Alex was the Chief Designer and Director of Product Development and Innovation at the Nika Group Company, where he helped launch several collections of gold and silver writing instruments, accessories, and watches. When Alex decided to create his own line of writing instruments, Kate decided to join him, bringing in her experience as the General Manager of Konstantin Chaykin, a daughter company of the Nika Group.

BENU Ghost White fountain pen inside the box.

BENU fountain pens are presented in elegant gray cardboard boxes that are lined with thin and long shreds of paper. Inside the box, the pen is wrapped in kraft paper and secured by jute twine. Printed on one side of the kraft paper is a brief description of BENU Pens, and product care for their pens.

The pens have uniform shape and size, all handcrafted and made in-house in the company's own Moscow-based workshop. The pen in this review is a fountain pen, but it is also offered as a ballpoint.

The company currently offers three collections of fountain pens and ballpoints:
  1. The Classic Collection includes fountain pens and ballpoints in over 30 color combinations. Most pens in the Classic collection have pearlescent or aventurescent effects and various inserts, such as golden and silver leaves, to achieve a luminous, eye-catching look and to enrich pen’s color.
  2. The Ornate Collection includes fountain pens and ballpoints with geometrical or skull pattern. 
  3. The Sublime Collection includes a limited number of fountain pens with contrasting color combinations. The Sublime collection is produced in limited editions, numbering from 1 to 10 pens only.

The Ghost White Silver fountain pen belongs to BENU's Classic Collection and is also available with gold-plated trims. BENU Pens designed it to echo the alluring romanticism of ghost stories. Crafted from misty, airy pearlescent material, the Ghost White fountain pen is drenched in the mystique and lightness of a white phantom.


I used the Ghost White fountain pen daily for a week, and found it to be an excellent pen. It's a good pen for all fountain pen users -- newbies/beginners, collectors, students, and artists. Uncapped, it weighs 22 grams (similar to a Lamy AL-star's weight) which is just right in the hand. This bullet-shaped compact pen measures 4.9 inches long (only a bit longer than a Kaweco Sport). The Ghost White fountain pen is a light and compact pen that is just right for daily use: note-taking, journaling, and even sketching.

I also noticed the pen's exceptional gloss and shine. The cap, section, and barrel are spotless, shiny, and very smooth to the touch. The aventurescent resin from which this pen was made from was perfectly polished to a beautiful shine.


Due to their streamlined compact size, fountain pens from BENU's Collections are not fitted with converters and can only accommodate cartridges. Each fountain pen is packaged with a short international Schneider cartridge, but I filled the Ghost White fountain pen with Iroshizuku Asa-gao.

BENU Pens has indicated that they are about to launch a new fountain pen collection soon. The new fountain pens will be longer in size, fitted with converters, and will have clips and postable caps.

The Ghost White fountain pen parts: barrel, section (feed + nib), and cap.

The cap and barrel of this pen are made from high-quality, non-toxic, scratch- and wear-resistant aventurescent resin. BENU pens are created from high-quality resin of different colors with glossy, pearlescent, or jewel-dazzling star effect. To ensure one of a kind look, BENU's artisans prepare the resin for each pen separately, and carefully matches the colors by hand.

BENU Pens took great care in creating a pen ergonomically designed to fit a hand perfectly. The cap and barrel of this fountain pen are bullet-shaped and taper off toward the end, making the fountain pen comfortable to use.
It is noteworthy that in BENU pen production, the last step is cap assembly. Their fountain pens have screw on caps, and to secure the locking mechanism of the pen’s cap, the company uses the square thread. Though difficult to fabricate, the square thread has the lowest friction, which makes it the most efficient thread form known.

This pen's design does not include a clip, and won't allow the cap to be posted as well. But that's fine, as I do not post my pens. I am missing a clip, though. Also, I am not comfortable that I cannot fully take apart this fountain pen. I usually disassemble pens for thorough cleaning and even drying. Cleaning pens for reinking or storage is always a must for me.


BENU pens have decorative cap rings in rhodium plated brass or gold plated brass. These rings are attached to the cap and bear the BENU logo.

BENU logo on the cap ring.

BENU fountain pen parts are handcrafted in-house, except for their nibs. BENU fountain pens are fitted with Schmidt nibs that have high-quality JoWo and Bock nibs. The available nib sizes are Fine (F), Medium (M), or Broad (B). My fountain pen has a medium nib that wrote very smoothly out of the box. I did not experience a hardstart, skipping, or ink blobbing. I love writing with it, especially in my bullet journal.

The Ghost White fountain pen's section is very comfortable in the hand. Despite its gloss and shine, I did not experience my writing fingers sliding in the section's surface.

The Ghost White fountain pen's section is comfortable even in prolonged writing sessions.

Another white pen with a medium Schmidt nib, Retro 51 Scriptmaster II Maryanne.
BENU Ghost White with Retro 51 Scriptmaster and Pelikan M400.
Iroshizuku Asa-gao is a perfect ink partner for the Ghost White fountain pen.
Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekov would have been proud of this pen. 

If you are a new fountain pen user or a collector, this fountain pen (and other BENU pens) is for you! The Ghost White fountain pen is elegant, yet strong. It writes smoothly, durable, and is available in more than 40 colors! What are you waiting for? Order your pen now! To order, visit BENU's Online Store.


The Ghost White fountain pen in this review is provided by BENU Pens where it retails for US$90. For more details on purchasing pens from BENU, visit their website at http://www.benupen.com/online-store.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fountain Pen Review: 2017 Special Edition Lamy AL-star Pacific


Lamy AL-star PACIFIC is here!!! Woohoo!!! Lamy has granted my wish for an aquamarine AL-star this year!!! In my Charged Green AL-star review last year, I mentioned that an aquamarine or yellow AL-star fountain pen would be cool. Well, here it is. Here is the 2017 Special Edition Lamy AL-star fountain pen in a lovely metallic aquamarine color that perfectly complements the 2011 Aquamarine Safari.

Since 2014, Lamy has used compact cardboard boxes as presentation boxes for their pens, instead of the bulky plastic ones. An elastic in the felt-lined bed inside the box ensures that the pen stays in place, preventing breakage during transport. These boxes are sturdy, easy to store, and do not take up too much space. Last year's special edition AL-star and Safari pens came in similar compact boxes, too.

The 2017 Special Edition Lamy AL-star Pacific in its presentation box.

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

Lamy's recent special edition AL-star pens (Bluegreen, Copper Orange, Charged Green, and Pacific) come in lovely bright colors. The Pacific, whose color depicts both ocean and sky, has a deep, almost 'electric' aquamarine shade and green undertones in an anodized aluminum finish. I love this pen's aquamarine color because it's a happy and cheery blue.

The Pacific has a happy blue color.

The Lamy AL-star is a good pen for all fountain pen users -- newbies/beginners, collectors, students, and artists. 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 for small or big hands, comfortable to use, and sturdy, too!

The AL-star'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 unscrew 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 on one side of the barrel, towards the end.

The AL-star has a transparent gray plastic section.

The AL-star's signature triangular section has a grip that gives the writer a firm hold on the pen while writing. An anti-slipping brake near the end of the section prevents the writer'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.

A great feature of 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. The available nibs are extra-fine (EF), fine (F), medium (M), broad (B), and left-handed. The AL-star can also be fitted with italic nibs 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 in Pacific and Lamy's regular ink colors (blue washable, black, red, turquoise, green and blue-black).

The Z24 converter fits snugly into the AL-star section.

Lamy has previously issued two blue AL-star pens: Silver Blue and Blue Ocean. Silver Blue was discontinued in 2010 (I cannot find any reference to its year of issue), but Ocean Blue is included in Lamy's regular AL-star lineup since 2009 after its first issue as a special edition pen in 2007.
Three blue AL-star fountain pens: Silver Blue, Ocean Blue, and Pacific.

Note that the Lamy logo in the Silver Blue and Blue Ocean pens have deeper and more pronounced lines, compared to the logo of the Pacific.
The Pacific AL-star is the aluminum version of the 2011 Aquamarine Safari, but I'm not complaining.

I have done a number of AL-star and Safari fountain pen reviews in the past, but I have not discussed the differences between these two pens. The greatest difference is the pens' materials: AL-star is aluminum, Safari is plastic. The AL-star has a transparent gray plastic section, while the Safari matches the pen body's material and color. The AL-star is a bit heavier than the Safari, although this is not noticeable. Aside from these, there are some subtle differences in their design, see the photos below. 
Both pens share the same clip, but the Safari's cap has an indentation where the clip is inserted into the cap.

AL-star fountain pens have black plastic cross finials, and most Safaris have the same finials. The Safari in this picture was issued in 2011, when Lamy made Safaris with finials in the same color and material of the pen's body.
The Lamy logo is debossed in the Safari, while the outline is simply engraved in the AL-star.


The AL-star's barrel end has a plastic black button cap, while the Safari's button is from the same color and material of its body. Both are engraved "Germany."

Lamy AL-star fountain pens (from top): Aluminum, Graphite, Silver Green, Silver Blue, Ocean Blue, Black Purple, Ruby Red, Pearl, Bluegreen, Charged Green, Copper Orange, and Pacific.


The matching ink for the Pacific pen, also called Pacific, is a lovely bright turquoise/aqumarine ink with more blue than green. It reminds me of the sea and the sky on a bright summer day.

The Pacific ink is available in proprietary Lamy cartridges and in 50ml T52 bottles that come with a roll of ink blotter to clean the pen after filling, or to blot writing. The bottle has a small basin at the bottom, to allow filling when the ink level is low.


The Pacific ink (right) is the same as the Turquoise ink in Lamy's regular production line. I'm not sure why Lamy did not issue a new ink for the Pacific, or why they had to repackage their Turquoise ink. If you already have Lamy Turqouise, then getting a bottle of the Pacific is not really necessary. I noticed though, that the Pacific ink comes in the new special edition presentation box, and bottle cap matches the pen's aquamarine color.


Below are swatches of the Pacific ink together with other turquoise/aqumarine inks.

Lamy Pacific ink in single and double passes. The double passes swab shows a darker shade of the ink. 

Pacific and Turquoise. Same ink, no difference at all.

Lamy Pacific is almost similar to J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche, although the Pacific is more expressive. Pacific is lighter than Robert Oster Bondi Blue, which has more shading and sheen. 

I noticed this red sheen while looking at the double passes ink swab of the Pacific ink. It's beautiful, and I'd love to see this when I write with this ink.

The Pacific is a well-behaved ink. It has excellent flow and lubrication, medium to high shading, with average drying time. This ink is very easy to clean, does not stain, and has a pretty color.


Like all the previous special edition AL-star fountain pens, I love the Pacific and the ink that came with it. The fountain pen is versatile (has interchangeable nibs), simple, minimalistic, and helpful to newbies (triangular section grip). The metallic finish has a special glow that brings warmth to the aquamarine color of the Pacific 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 special edition Pacific AL-star fountain pens 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, the Times Trading Company. In the Philippines, the AL-star Pacific 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. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, visit http://www.scribewritingessentials.com/stores/.


Lamy AL-star pens are widely available from pen sellers worldwide. For a list of Lamy retailers, visit http://www.lamy.com/content/find_a_retailer/index_eng.html.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fountain Pen Inks Review: J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Ink Bleu Ocean


In September 2012, two years after the successful launch of the revolutionary ink Rouge Hematite, J. Herbin introduced their second limited edition 1670 Anniversary Ink, Bleu Ocean. This deep blue ink was created to celebrate the adventurous sea voyages of J. Herbin to the Mughal (Mogul) Empire of India, the world's earliest center of production and processing of indigo dye during the time.

After Bleu Ocean, three more inks have been added to the 1670 Anniversary line — Stormy Grey, Emeraude de Chivor, and Caroube de Chypre — all with gold flecks and reminiscent of J. Herbin's experiences during his voyages.

I received a bottle of Bleu Ocean a couple of months after its launch, but I was unable to write a full review for a couple of reasons. The reformulated Bleu Ocean with gold flecks was launched in April 2015, replacing the previous ink without flecks. Now that I have samples of both, it's time for a review!

Two of the same: Bleu Ocean without gold flecks (left), and Bleu Ocean with gold flecks (right).


As a blue ink fanatic, Bleu Ocean has been one of my favorites. It's the only ink I use in my Ocean Blue Lamy AL-star, because their colors (and names) match. I can write with it for legal documents, journaling, calligraphy, and notetaking. When this ink was launched in 2012, J. Herbin followers were not happy with it. Its predecessor, Rouge Hematite, had a successful launch and fans raved about its color and the gold flecks in it. After the announcement for Blue Ocean's release, most people (okay, that included me) expected the ink to have silver flecks — as a follow up to Rouge Hematite, and to match the bottle's silver cord and wax seal as well. When it came out without the flecks, people were disappointed, and branded Bleu Ocean as "just another blue ink."

See the gold flecks in the bottle's opening? Cool! The 1670 bottle has a unique design, but it has a smaller opening than most other ink bottles. Filling big pens requires the help of a pipette or syringe. 


Flecks or no flecks, I love Bleu Ocean. Like its four siblings in the 1670 Anniversary line, it's a collector's item. The box design represents the life of J. Herbin as a French sailor. The 1670 bottle, despite the narrow opening, is lovely. The silver cord, wax seal, and waxed cap are beautiful, making every 1670 box and bottle true collector's items.

Gold flecks at the bottle's bottom.
The 1670 Anniversary inks box represents the life of J. Herbin as a sailor and his voyages to different places.


Although unconfirmed by J. Herbin, the blue color of Bleu Ocean seems to be derived from indigo dye, a natural plant-derived dye with a distinctive blue color. Once considered by the Greeks and the Romans as a luxury product, indigo dye is the color that is often associated with blue jeans.

To test the inks, I wrote on Tomoe River Paper using Lamy Safari and AL-star fountain pens, both with 1.1 nibs. 


Bleu Ocean reminds me of indigo Mediterranean tiles and the blue and white houses in Santorini. This exquisite ink also reminds me of both Van Gogh and Picasso and the depth and poignancy of their work. Van Gogh's Irises and Starry Night; Picasso's The Old Guitarist and The Blue Room.

Bleu Ocean evokes memories from years ago when I used to associate dark blue color with dusk and twilight and their accompanying sounds: crickets chirping, newscast on TV, my mother cooking dinner, our dog snoring, my brothers' banter.

Bleu Ocean has a dark, rich, deep blue color with soft hints of purple. It is a versatile fountain pen ink, and goes from bright purplish blue (Eclat de Saphir) to a dark, almost blue-black shade (Blue Nuit). It is more saturated than most J. Herbin inks, but flows smoothly, and can be cleaned off pen parts very easily. Fortunately, it dries faster than Rouge Hematite, and does not show any of the ugly nib creep in the fountain pens that I have inked with it.
A swab of Bleu Ocean without gold flecks. 
These ink drops took almost an hour to dry. I got this almost blue-black shade in my previous fills of Bleu Ocean in pens with broad, wet nibs.
Dark Bleu Ocean with sheen up close. Do you see this blue in Picasso's The Old Guitarist? I do.



Bleu Ocean with gold flecks was launched in 2015.

These ink drops took longer to dry than the ones without the flecks.

It's a thrill to see the gold flecks up close!


Because Bleu Ocean is a highly saturated ink, it takes longer to dry, around 8-10 seconds more than the regular Herbin inks, depending on the nib and paper. On Rhodia and Tomoe River Paper, it takes a bit longer to dry. It can be prone to smudging and is not water resistant.

It's a big help for fountain pen users to be able to clean their pens easily. Both inks are easy to clean off nibs and feeds of the two pens I used in this review, but I had a hard time taking off the gold flecks in the Lamy Z24 converter that I ended up disassembling it for a full cleanup.

Gold flecks and shading in my writing sample.
Bleu Ocean in Ocean Blue and Blue. Blue on blue.


If you use fountain pens regularly like I do, if you like J. Herbin inks, and if you have any of the 1670 Anniversary inks, I recommend getting a bottle of Bleu Ocean. Make this ink a part of your collection! The one without gold flecks has been out of production already, but the one with gold flecks is a versatile ink with beautiful shading and shimmer. Get one in your ink collection now! 


Both bottles of 1670 J. Herbin Anniversary Ink Bleu Ocean are from Exaclair USA, through the kindness of Karen Doherty, Marketing VP. 

The Tomoe River paper is from Scribe Writing Essentials, the leading distributor of fine writing instruments, specialty paper including Rhodia; fountain pen inks, including J. Herbin; and other fountain pen related accessories in the Philippines. 

J. Herbin products are widely available worldwide. For a list of authorized retailers, visit the J. Herbin website.
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