Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Fountain Pen Review: Ystudio Brassing Portable Fountain Pen

I first saw Ystudio pens in Patrick Ng's blog last year. The combination of brass, leather, and wood in a single package was interesting and intriguing to my fountain pen user/collector and designer's eyes. At first, I thought the brand is Japanese, but I learned that it is from Taiwan, the birthplace of TWSBI. I followed the pen on Instagram and in fellow bloggers' pages and I became a fan of its sleek and minimalistic design. I wanted to see one and try it for myself. Early this year, I learned that Scribe, the country's sole seller of premier fountain pens will be adding Ystudio to their store shelves. Through Scribe, Ystudio kindly sent a fountain pen to me for review here. I tested the Ystudio Portable Fountain Pen in the brassing variant for a month before finally sitting down to write the review.

When I received the pen package, I was very impressed with Ystudio's branding and presentation. The big box that holds the pen's outer and inner boxes is a plain box made of corrugated board, but the Ystudio logo is neatly printed on its sides. Inside the big box are the pen's outer and inner boxes. Ystudio's logo is imprinted on both boxes in gold. The box that holds the pen and accessories is a beautiful stained sycamore wood with several layers of board lining that can be removed if one wants to repurpose the box. A thumb hole at the bottom makes removing the lid easier.

An instructions booklet and a sheet of sandpaper are included in the wood pen case. Details about these two items are in the later part of this review. Also included in the package, together with the brassing fountain pen, is a protective tube made of white maple wood, two leather cords, and a brass ring. The accessories—tube, leather cords, and brass ring—are included to make the pen 'portable'.

Inside the box: carrying tube, brassing Ystudio fountain pen, leather cords, and brass ring.
The combination of brass, leather, and wood of the Ystudio package gives its user a unique sensory experience. One touches the hardness of the wood and brass against the softness of the leather
cord and feels the coldness of the brass amidst the warmth of wood and leather.  

Ystudio, a design company based in Taiwan, has successfully created a unique fountain pen design that easily catches attention everywhere. The pen is a head turner! The minimalistic design gives the pen a modern industrial look, its simplicity brings to mind traditional Asian form. Amsterdam-based store Kohezi wrote, "Ystudio, founded in 2012, believes in the value of simplicity. Their designs are minimalistic, yet extremely powerful, made for everyday use with natural materials that will last for more than a lifetime."

This pen is completely new to me, as I do not have many metal pens. I have several pens with aluminum bodies, but the Ystudio brassing fountain pen is my first fountain pen that is made from brass. This is also my first hexagonal fountain pen, and I am enjoying this barrel design a lot. It's a built-in roller stopper which compensates for the pen's missing clip. It's also a nice conversation piece and a fun item to bring to meetings where people keep asking about the pen, some even requested to try it.

Ystudio makes two types of fountain pens: "Portable Fountain Pen" and "Desk Fountain Pen." The Portable Fountain Pen comes in two variants: "Classic" and "Brassing." The Brassing Fountain Pen is made of solid brass coated in black lacquer with subtle gold lines that accentuate the hexagonal design. Through time, these pens will develop character. The Classic, which is made from copper will develop patina, while the black lacquer in Brassing will wear off and reveal the brass underneath.

Here are the measurements of the Ystudio Brassing Portable Fountain Pen:
  • Length of pen, capped: 5.4 in
  • Length of pen without cap (barrel end to nib tip): 4.7 in 
  • Cap: 2.4 in
  • Section: 1.2 in
  • Section while threaded in barrel: .94 in
  • Barrel: 3 in
  • Section diameter: .3 in
  • Barrel diameter: .4 in
  • Weight, full pen with converter: 45 g 
  • Pen with converter, without cap: 30 g
  • Cap: 15 g
The Ystudio Portable Fountain Pen's parts: cap, nib assembly, section, converter, and barrel.
Ystudio has kindly included a converter in the package.
Ystudio has kept its branding consistent and simple. Their logo is placed towards
the end of the barrel. Here, the brass shows through the lacquer.
The top of the Ystudio Portable Fountain Pen cap is flat with a hole.
This feature is for personalizing the pen and making it portable.
The Portable Fountain Pen's nib assembly: section, nib and feed holder, feed, and nib.

When I uncapped the pen, I was a bit apprehensive because of the small No. 5 Schmidt nib, but it did not disappoint. The medium Schmidt nib wrote smoothly out of the box for the first time, and through the weeks, I did not experience skipping or even a single hard start, considering that the pen is always upright in my pen wrap inside my bag.

Top is the pen's barrel, below that is the cap.

The Ystudio Portable Fountain Pen is of standard length, sharing the same length as a Lamy Safari or TWSBI ECO with its cap on. However, this pen does not post, so it becomes shorter compared to other pens without its cap. This is not an issue to me, though. I look at this as part of careful (and thoughtful) planning for a metal pen design. The Ystudio pen without the cap already weighs 30g. That's almost the same as the weight of Kaweco DIA2 (28g) or TWSBI Diamond 580AL (31g) with their caps on. If the Ystudio's cap is posted, the pen becomes heavy and writing may be inconvenient. Designing the pen to be a little shorter and non-posting decreased its weight, ensuring writing comfort.

The Ystudio Portable Fountain Pen package includes an instructions booklet and a sheet of fine-grit sandpaper to guide the user in personalizing the pen.

A spread in the instructions booklet contains a list of the accessories and shows steps on converting the pen into a portable one. The flat end of the pen's cap fits in the space on top of the carrying tube. Once fitted, a leather cord is laced through the hole on top, the brass ring secures the leather before it is knotted. With the pen encased in its carrying tube, it is now portable and ready to be attached to a bag handle, belt loop, or lanyard. This is a unique feature of this pen, but I'm not sure if I'll be doing it. I'm a bit uncomfortable with my pen hanging somewhere even if it's encased in a wooden tube. First, what if the wooden tube breaks? Second, I don't feel safe hanging a US$160 (PhP8,395) pen somewhere with the possibility of losing it. I'm sure this system would work for some fountain pen users, it's just not for me.

A different spread in the instructions booklet discusses pen care, including how to fill the pen with ink and cleaning afterward. This spread also illustrates how to create a personalized brassing effect by removing the black lacquer coating using the sandpaper in the package. I love the look of the Brassing fountain pen's black lacquer, so I'll hold on to it for now.

The Ystudio Portable fountain pen's all-black presentation is simply elegant.
I like this look, so I'll hold off sanding the lacquer coating for now.
The package includes two leather cords in black and tan. The black leather cord is softer than
the tan cord and looks perfect on the Brassing fountain pen.

Here's a writing sample of the Ystudio Portable Fountain Pen. To ensure good ink flow,
I filled this pen with Robert Oster Velvet Storm – a smooth, wet, and saturated dark blue ink.
(Rober Oster inks are also available at Scribe.)

Having said/written all these, the next question on my list is, would I recommend this pen to anyone? Well, I'm a Ystudio fan, and I've enjoyed the pen over the past month that I've tried it. Ystudio has done an awesome job in designing this pen, and sure, I recommend it to anyone who uses a fountain pen, especially to those who love brass (or copper), or simply wants to: try a metal pen, use a portable fountain pen, or personalize their pen.

If anyone wants to get a Ystudio Portable or Desk Fountain Pen, the Ystudio website has a list of retail and online shops from around the world who are selling their products.

In the Philippines, Ystudio products are available at the SM Aura and Glorietta 4 branches of Scribe. For product availability, check with the branches first. Their website has a list of their store locations with contact numbers.

To cap off this review, here's a summary of my observations about the Ystudio Brassing Portable Fountain Pen:

What I love about it:
  • Simple, elegant pen design—hexagonal design prevents the pen from rolling off (also a nice conversation piece)
  • Leather and wood complement pen's brass 
  • Excellent packaging (maple pen case is awesome!!!)
  • Pen is not heavy despite being made from brass
  • Schmidt converter comes free with pen
  • Nib is wet and writes smoothly
  • Pen is portable–can attach anywhere—belt, bag, notebook, etc.

What I don't like about it:
  • Limited nib options — no B! (or italic/stub)
  • Slim section — I wish it is fatter than it is now
  • Clipless
  • Cannot post — this is more for those who post their pens -- I don't post my pens.
  • Cap — snap instead of screw on

The fountain pen in this review was sent to me free of charge by Ystudio, through Scribe. This review is unpaid, and the contents are not in any way influenced by either Ystudio or Scribe.

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