Tuesday, March 21, 2017

NAMISU NOVA BRASS FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
I reviewed the Namisu Nova Ebonite a while ago (review can be found HERE), and I still enjoy that pen a lot. But it also made me want to try the metal versions of the Nova, since they also offer them in full aluminium, Titanium (and now also brass) construction. 

You might have seen my review of the Namisu X-01 rollerball prototype in brass that was sent to me a few months back (if you haven't yet seen that review, you can find it HERE), but they also included a couple other prototypes, including a solid brass version of the Nova. Perhaps you saw some of my pictures of it on social media, but I decided to hold off on the review until it was officially released (which is now). I didn't want to be a huge tease and talk about something that didn't really exist yet! 
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
The three prototypes. L to R: Namisu Orion Copper, X-01 rollerball, Nova brass.
In the meantime, I also bought myself a brushed titanium version of the same pen (#oneofeverythingitis). Because 1: I really like the design, A LOT. And 2: I wanted to make this more of a review about the Namisu Nova in general, so I could better put things in perspective. 

The design of the Nova is the selling point here. It's a simple cigar-shaped pen with conical finials on top and bottom, which is a shape you can regularly find from other pen manufacturers as well (such as Nakaya, or Edison,...). It's a fat pen, but with a balanced appearance due to the taper towards both ends. When closed, it's a true design object, and I find it fascinating just to look at the monolithical shape in shiny titanium or patinaed brass.

You've probably noticed -and I made it more than clear in earlier reviews- that this design style is completely my kind of thing! I like modern and minimal products, and enjoy their simplicity. But of course that's purely a matter of personal taste.
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
The Nova is a fairly average-sized pen, that looks a lot bigger because of the wide diameter. It measures a decent 13.9cm (5.47") closed, and 12.8cm (5") without the cap. Open, it's just the right length to fit the hand comfortably, which is good, because the cap isn't made to post (you can try but it'll do more harm than good). 

The diameter at the widest point is a bulky 1.55cm (0.6"), and the section is quite a bit narrower: 1.2cm (0.47"). The difference in diameter is obviously accounted for by a noticeable step behind the block threads, and it's quite sharp. Comfort-wise, this'll definitely play an important role, even though apart from this it's actually a very pleasant pen to hold. The curved shape fits the hand perfectly, but that step is definitely noticeable, and it's something to keep in mind. 
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
L to R: Namisu X-01, Nova brass, Orion copper, Lamy safari, Lamy 2000
Then we come to the -possibly- most important aspect: weight! These are all-metal, so you definitely shouldn't expect a lightweight pen. But there is definitely quite a hefty difference (literally) depending on which material you choose. The brass is the heavyweight, and comes in at 89g (63g uncapped), the titanium is lighter at 40g (30g uncapped), and the aluminium version is the lightweight at 27g (19g uncapped).

Comparing these three, the Al and brass are quite opposite ends of the spectrum, with the Ti lying somewhere in between. The titanium is the easiest of the three, and it's the safest bet when you don't know which weight would suit you best. It's not too heavy, not too light. The aluminium version is ideal if you don't like heavy pens at all, because it's only slightly heavier than acrylic or resin pens. 

The brass version is a different story. It's the outlier, and a more 'exotic' choice for people that don't mind a heavy pen. On their website, Namisu also mentions this, and recommends it for people that are looking for an oversized pen, which is exactly how the Nova brass feels with its' big and bulky appearance and the weight to match.
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
L to R: Namisu Nova brass, brushed titanium, ebonite.
I found that I reached for other pens more frequently compared to the brass Nova. Yes, there are more comfortable pens out there, but nevertheless I do enjoy writing with it. The trick is to lightly grip the pen and let its' weight do all the work. When you write for longer periods of time, there definitely is some fatigue from the sheer weight; But I actually found my grip to be less cramped than with some other pens (the relatively wide section definitely helped with this I think).
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
All Namisu pens come equipped with stock #6 Bock nibs, and so far I've had nothing but excellent experiences with these. The titanium Nova I bought with a medium Ti nib to match, and it's something else. It's springy and soft, and you can squeeze out some subtle line variation. The brass came equipped with a medium steel nib, and it's -just like the broad I tried on the ebonite nova- very smooth and has a juicy wet flow. They are reliable nibs that work well, and are pleasant to use, what more can you ask for?
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
Namisu's retail strategy is perhaps a bit odd and might need a little explanation: They never have all versions of every product available at a time, which can be confusing. That's because they work with batch production, so the lower quantity production means that you'll sometimes have to wait a little for the specific pen and finish you want. On the other hand, I think it also gives a certain 'exclusivity', because you know they aren't non-stop mass-produced.
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
Attention to detail and very precise machining
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review
Namisu leather pen sleeve, can be bought separately
The Nova retails at a very reasonably price point. The aluminium version goes for 45 GBP (55 USD), the brass comes in at 70 GBP (now on sale for 60 GBP, which equals 74 USD), and the Ti is 75 GBP (93 USD). Prices vary a bit, depending on the currency value, and they also regularly do discounts. I think Namisu has their price point down, with excellent value for the price you pay.

Note: Certain products featured in this post, were provided by Namisu, so I could write this review.  I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affilate links.
Namisu Nova brass fountain pen review

Saturday, March 18, 2017

THE INXPERIMENT: INK SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE BY APPELBOOM

The Inxperiment: Ink subscription service by Appelboom
A few month ago, Goulet Pens stopped their ink sample subscription service. It had gotten to a point where it had simply grown out of hand for them. But it didn't take long for another store to fill in the void that Goulet left behind. That store was the Netherlands-based Appelboom.

For those that aren't familiar with the concept of an ink subscription: a selection of ink samples is curated each month, and sent out on a subscription basis. It's a fun and affordable way to try and experiment with new inks, and you get to try inks that you might not have thought about before. 
The Inxperiment: Ink subscription service by Appelboom
Appelboom named their subscription 'The Inxperiment', and it's slightly different from what Goulet Pens did. The general idea is the same of course: you get five ink sample vials of a couple milliliters, enough to fill a pen once or twice.

But additionally, Appelboom also coupled it with a giveaway. Each month you receive a white postcard along with your Inxperiment, that you can color using the ink samples. If you send the postcard back, or post it on social media, you get the chance to win the set of full bottles from that month's Inxperiment! There's only so much one can do with a subscription like this, but I think Appelboom did a pretty good job adding an extra touch to it with this giveaway.
The Inxperiment: Ink subscription service by Appelboom
Appelboom strongly focused on expanding their ink selection in the recent years, and the result is definitely noticeable. They have a wide variety of ink brands, both the more traditional brands and some more exclusive 'boutique' inks like Robert Oster, KWZI and Bookbinders. So the selection of samples is varied, and sometimes comes in a certain theme. For instance, the February Inxperiment was themed around Valentine's day, and contained a couple nice red/pink inks, as well as a Valentine's themed postcard. 
The Inxperiment: Ink subscription service by Appelboom
The Inxperiment: Ink subscription service by Appelboom
The Inxperiment is the ideal subscription to get your monthly ink fix, and it allows you to try out a bunch of inks at a reasonable price. The selection of samples comes from a wide range of popular, but also some smaller brands. Of course you don't know what you'll get, so you might end up with an ink you already have, but that's the risk of the game. Or to quote Forrest Gump:

"Life is like a box of chocolates. 
You never know what you're gonna get."

Appelboom's The Inxperiment runs 12.10 EUR or 10 USD for non-EU customers, and the discount code 'friend', provided for Pencilcase Blog readers, can also be applied to further reduce the price.
Note: Appelboom is a sponsor of this blog. This product was sent free of charge so I could write this review.  I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affilate links.
The Inxperiment: Ink subscription service by Appelboom

Monday, March 13, 2017

SAILOR PRO GEAR EARTH FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
My recent experience with the Sailor Zuisei was kind of a turning point for my pen addiction. It made me realise that I had to give Japanese pens a chance. Something I hadn't done up to that point (or at least not enough), because I was strongly convinced that Japanese pens wouldn't suit my personal preferences.

But as I said, my opinion changed quite drastically with the review of the Zuisei. I was amazed by how effortless and reliable it wrote, and it could easily measure with pens of my favourite western brands. In fact, if it wasn't so expensive, I probably would've bought it! That being said, I knew it wouldn't take long before I'd venture out and look for a more affordable Sailor.

Then my eye fell upon the new Professional Gear 'Earth' special edition. I was fascinated (still am) and intrigued by the dark brown-red, murky color, and I knew that was the one I'd get. A few days later I visited Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery (based in Belgium, not too far from where I live), and I came home with one. A bit of an impulse buy perhaps, but one I don't regret so far! 
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
The Pro gear Earth is a special edition, and comes in the usual three sizes Sailor offers for the Professional Gear: the smaller 'Slim' (Sapporo), the normal 'classic', and the larger 'King Of Pens'. Unless you are into pocket pens, the Slim isn't really an option I'd suggest, since it is very small (the price tag is more forgiving however). The Classic is only marginally larger than the Sapporo, yet the difference is noticeable in the hand. You shouldn't, however, expect a large or oversized pen when shopping around for a Sailor, unless you spend a substantial amount more on a King Of Pens. 
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
I've reviewed the Sailor 1911 Large some years ago, and the Pro Gear is basically identical to it, except for flat end finials. Basically they took a 1911 Large, and cut off the top and bottom, which obviously reduces the overall length of the pen quite a bit.

The Pro Gear has always been my favourite design from Sailor because of the flattop cigar design. In fact, about 95% of my collection consists of pens with flat finials, so I think it's safe to say that that's my general preference. I assume this is because pens with rounded finials usually have a more classic and traditional appearance, whereas the flattop design gives the Pro Gear a more modern look. 
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
The pen is accentuated by gold plated trims, and a black enamel-filled anchor logo on the cap finial. The gold trims work well with the color of the resin, rhodium trims definitely would've looked out of place here. But the real eye-catcher is the wide center band: The KOP Pro Gear comes standard with a single, wide center band, but the regular Pro Gear usually has two smaller bands. Only special and limited edition versions have a single wide band. 

With the Earth special edition, you can actually run into both versions, because apparently they changed it halfway during production. I had the choice when I bought mine, so I went for the wider band because I like the clean and uniform look. 
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
The material appears more red, and shows some slight transparency in the right light
The color of the resin on this special edition was a bit of a gamble. I didn't really know if I'd like it or not because it really is quite a strange and unique color. And frankly about two months later I still haven't  really made up my mind about it. It's a muddy, dark red-brown color that somehow shows some transparency in certain places, and appears opaque in others. It also much depends on the lighting conditions, especially under artificial light it appears much more opaque. It's quite a fascinating material, and it's relatively subtle, even with the gold trims. 
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
Now for dimensions, I already mentioned that it's quite a small pen, and that's not an understatement. It measures in at 12.9cm closed (5.05''), and 11.6cm open (4.5''). I usually find 12.5cm open (5'') to be the sweet spot that works for me, but for some reason I can just get away with this pen unposted. I do tend to hold it quite close to the nib, which makes it just long enough to not dissapear in my hand. 
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
Unposted
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
Posted
It might work for me, but generally speaking, the size of the Sailor Pro Gear might prove an issue for people that have larger hands, or a different grip. Fortunately it does post quite well, and doing so brings it up to 15cm (aprox 5.9''), which is a comfortable size. The cap doesn't weigh it down (the total weight, including the cap, is only 25g), so it's quite a comfortable pen to use posted.
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
L to R: Pelikan M400, Pilot CH92, Platinum #3776 century, Sailor Pro Gear, Sailor 1911L, Lamy Safari, Lamy 200
One thing I personally really like, is that it's relatively girthy, despite not being too long. The section measures an average 1,1cm (0.43''), which helps to provide a good grip without feeling cramped. The threads are shallow and barely noticeable, and the transition from section to barrel is smooth, so there's nothing to interfere with your grip. If you can deal with the size (or lack thereof), I think it's actually a fairly comfortable pen to use. Especially posted, it's well-balanced and comfortable in the hand.

But it shouldn't really come as a surprise that it's a comfortable pen to use. Japanese brands like Sailor, Pilot,... might not always come up with the most flashy pens, but they always aim to be comfortable to use, so that's exactly what this pen delivers. Nib performance is obviously another important factor when you want a reliable everyday use pen, luckily Sailor has got that covered as well. I'm repeating myself, but the way these nibs perform just shows that they are meant to be used. They just write flawlessly, all the time. Every time. 
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
I was blown away by the broad nib on the Zuisei, so I went with a B nib on this one as well. Japanese pens are best known for their ultra extra fine nibs, which is what a lot of people seem to enjoy these days, but Sailor also makes some pretty nice wider nibs. 

Of course you shouldn't expect a wide, gushy broad like those found on a Pelikan, but it lays down a solid line, somewhere in between medium and broad. The feed provides a consistently balanced ink flow. Even with this broad nib, you can feel the distinctive feedback that indicates the nib wasn't overpolished. It starts up every time and keeps going no matter what. It's not easily bothered by oils on the page, or very slick paper, which is a nice departure from the often more finnicky Western nibs. 

One thing I did notice, is that wetter, more lubricated inks perform noticeably better. Sailor's own ink is a good example of a smooth, lubricated ink, and they work well with their pens (obviously). I don't know if this is always the case, but there was definitely some noticeable difference between the inks I tried.
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
The Sailor Pro Gear is a small but capable pen. The design of the Pro Gear is right up my alley, but the main selling point here is of course the great writing experience. I've held off on Japanese pens because I tend to lean towards wider nibs and didn't think they would be able to provide something that would suit me. That turned out to be a bit small-minded from my end, and I definitely got rid of this preconception (I already bought a second Japanese pen since this one!). The only downside I can think of is the size of the pen itself. I find it quite a comfortable pen to use, but it's right on the edge of being a little too small, that's definitely something to keep in mind when shopping.
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review
The regular range of Sailor pens (not including the urushi and maki-e work) quite reasonably priced (at least compared to other premium brands). The smaller Sapporo models can be had for well under 200$, while the regular size Pro Gear begins at a reasonable 295 EUR/ 250 USD, and go up from there (the Special edition Earth retails for the regular price).

Note: I received a discount on the purchase of this product from Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery, so I could write this review.  I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affilate links.
Sailor Pro Gear Earth fountain pen review