Sunday, April 23, 2017

YSTUDIO PORTABLE FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
Ystudio only very recently hit the fountain pen market, but they sure made quite an entry! Especially on Instagram their two new fountain pens -simply called the 'portable' and 'desk' fountain pens- have been hot items amongst some of the biggest influencers in the community (Brad from Penaddict, Catharine Mi-Sook, and Azizah from Gourmetpens to name a few). Needless to say I was quite eager to give it a try for myself, so I was very happy when Amsterdam-based design store Kohezi contacted me to see if I was interested in trying one out as well! 

There's often a discussion about new brands and products not being innovative enough, that there's a lack of 'exciting' products....Well, if this pen from Ystudio can't prove the opposite, I think I'm out of arguments.
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
The Ystudio portable fountain pen perfectly illustrates why I have been quite 'into' designer pen brands recently. There seems to have been a surge of new small pen brands popping everywhere, which I think has a lot to do with crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter. Platforms like this offer the opportunity to designers and creative individuals to step into the world of (fountain) pens. These design brands offer a creative and fresh look at the products we use everyday. Ystudio happens to be a 'traditional' brand that didn't take the crowdfunding route, but they still fit that category of 'young and fresh' perfectly. They offer a product that is different, something people instantly notice and recognize.
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
Incredible packaging for a pen in this price range!
The pen itself, called the 'portable classic', is a smaller pen with a hex profile. Ystudio describes itself as a design studio that tries to capture and honor the traditional Eastern culture, and I think they succeed quite well at doing so. The pen could be described as minimal, but at the same time it appears vintage and rustic. The complete package -together with what could be the most elaborate packaging I've ever seen on a pen in this price range- shows a clean aesthetic but retains a very obvious traditional and 'vintage' vibe. 
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
I might sound a bit poetic, but that's really how this pen makes me feel. It has character, and it's made to develop even more character over time. There are two versions of the Portable available, 'Classic' which is this raw copper version pictured here, and 'Brassing' which is a brass version covered in black laquer. They will both change over time, the black laquer on the Brassing will slowly wear off (or can be sanded off with the included sandpaper), the copper version will develop a beautiful patina over time. 
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
The name of the pen says it all, the Portable is made to be, well... portable! It comes with a wooden storage tube that holds the pen. The top of the cap is pinched and has a hole that allows it to be attached to one of two included leather strings. Put all these things together, and you can attach the Ystudio Portable to a backpack or purse, while keeping it protected inside the wooden tube. 
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
My opinion about this system is quite divided. On one side I think it's unique and ingenious, cleverly designed as well. But on the other side I find it a bit bothersome. I don't feel like hanging the pen inside its' wooden case somewhere where you risk it banging into everything (I don't think the wooden case would hold up very well to that kind of abuse), and it sounds a bit risky to hang a 140$ pen on the outside of a backpack, ready to get lost. I appreciate the effort they put into designing this system, and I'm certain it'll offer functionality for some, just not for me I'm afraid.
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
L to R: Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari, Ystudio portable, Namisu Orion, Namisu X-01
But so far for the negative side, because the pen itself is totally my kind of thing. It measures 13.8cm closed (5.4'') and 11.9cm (4.7'') without the cap. The barrel and cap have a diameter of 1.2cm (0.46''), but the section is considerably narrower (8mm/0.31'' on average). All around, the Ystudio Portable is a noticeably smaller pen. On top of that, the lack of taper in the design makes it impossible to post the cap, so size will be an important detail to consider. I found the narrow section to draw my grip forward towards the nib, which helped keep the size manageable, but if you persistently grip it higher up the barrel, you'll notice it's quite short.
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
The copper construction adds noticeable heft to this small pen (around 72g total), without making it feel overly heavy. I was afraid the section would prove too narrow to be comfortable, but it's actually not that bad. It required some time for me to get used to it because I usually tend to lean towards larger pens, but found it quite pleasant to use, even for longer writing sessions. If you prefer a larger pen, the Ystudio Desk pen might be ideal for you, but the trade-off is of course portability. 
The Portable comes with a smaller #5 steel nib, made by Shmidt. While Shmidt converters are practically an industry standard, their nibs are actually not that common to come by. Designwise I personally prefer Bock nibs over this. It's a standard-looking nib with the usual classic flourishes (something less cluttery might've looked better on a clean, minimal pen like this). Performance-wise I have nothing to complain about. The medium nib is stiff as a nail but runs true to size and lays down a consistent, juicy line. I never had any issues with hard starts or skipping.
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review
Quite a narrow section, but surprisingly comfortable
For a first venture into fountain pens, I think Ystudio did a pretty great job. You get a product with a unique design and concept, and the complete package is well-made with an eye for detail. That's the least you should expect, because at 140EUR for the Portable fountain pen, and 160EUR for the Desk version, they don't exactly come cheap. Availability also depends on where you live, as they seem to mostly be available in Europe through Kohezi and a few other pen stores online.

Note: This product was sent to me by Kohezi, 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.
Ystudio Portable fountain pen review

Monday, April 17, 2017

L!FE PAPER TSUBAME NOTEBOOK REVIEW

Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
Along with a couple other Japanese stationery brands, L!fe paper has slowly started to gain popularity in the few recent years. Especially here in Europe I have noticed quite a few shops started carrying the brand. It's peculiar how brands that have been around for ages (with L!fe paper we're talking WWII-era, they started 1946!) suddenly break through in different parts of the world after years of being relatively unknown. Obviously social media and the internet have something to do with that, digitalisation isn't always bad!

L!fe is a Japan-based brand, specialised in handmade paper and notebooks. Their notebooks are immediately recogniseable by the traditional, vintage-esque, cover designs in soft pastel colors, and a glued black spine. L!fe notebooks are partially handmade, utilising traditional letterpress methods. (they regularly post videos of the production process on INSTAGRAM that are really cool to watch!)
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
If there's one thing I like about notebooks, it's their portability. That's why I usually lean towards medium-sized notebooks like a standard A5. The Tsubame however, is quite a bit bigger, and sits somewhere in between A5 and A4 (B5 size, 16.7cm x 25cm / 6.6x9.8In). On the flipside, the larger pages are useful for longer writing sessions and notetaking. 
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
It of course depends on what you want to do with your notebook, but I personally still prefer slightly more compact journals that are easier to take with me. The combination of a relatively thin notebook (available in 54, 80 and 100 pages), along with the softcover and glued spine makes for a notebook that opens up flat, and is comfortable to write in. (That is, if you have a table or hard surface to place it on, for notes 'on the go' it's a bit impractical)
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
An index page is the only luxury you'll get. No pagemarker, no pockets, no elastic closure.
Part of the appeal, but also my only point of criticism, is the paper quality. L!fe specialised in producing paper early on, so I expected something good. But this honestly surpassed all expectations! The light cream-colored paper isn't extraordinarily heavy (83gsm, about the same as Rhodia notepad paper), but it takes fountain pen inks like a champ. Honestly it might be the best paper I've used to date.
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
Impressively little ghosting (bleedthrough)!
It shows shading really well, it doesn't feather or bleed. Even better, writing barely shows through on the other side of the page. Even when I threw a 10mm calligraphy dip nib (super wet!) at it, the only thing you could see on the other side was some minor ghosting. (Whereas paper like Leuchtturm, which is also good quality, shows more showthrough and even some bleed) The paper is absolutely fountain-pen friendly, and it's one of the only notebooks I like to use on both sides of the pages.
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
unobtrusive light grey ruling
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
BUT... As you may very well know, the smoothest paper is also the most finnicky.  Oils from your hands can transfer to the page when you write, which can cause pens to skip and stutter. Unfortunately, the Tsubame notebook behaves like this in the worst way possible. I've had some nibs simply give up completely, especially wider nibs wouldn't provide the ink flow you'd expect, which can be really frustrating. I always use it with a guide sheet (just any piece of scrap paper will do) to keep my hands from touching the paper. Using a guide sheet might be a bit of a hassle, but given the excellent paper quality I really can't complain. 
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review
It even outperforms rhodia dotpad paper in terms of bleedthrough and it shows off the ink with more depth.
Needless to say, I'm thoroughly impressed with the Tsubame notebook! The design is different and unique, and it handles fountain pens like a dream. What you see is what you get: It's a barebones notebook, no hardcover, no features (apart from a content table). But in terms of paper quality, it's worth every penny! Talking about pennies, the Tsubame notebooks are priced quite decently, and range from around 7.5 EUR to 12 EUR (for the B5 size) depending on the amount of pages.
Note: this notebook was sent to me by Scrittura Elegante, 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.
Life Paper Tsubame notebook review

Saturday, April 8, 2017

NAMISU ORION COPPER FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Namisu Orion fountain pen review
It has only been a couple of weeks since Namisu released their all-brass version of the Nova, but they haven't exactly been sitting still: Early this week they released yet another new pen (or rather a new version of an existing model), this time the Orion in solid copper!

Now, I'd begin this review by saying the Orion is Namisu's first fountain pen design, but that wouldn't be entirely correct. It really all started with the Nexus, which was the predecessor of the current Orion, The Nexus had a slightly different design (the orion is sleeker and appears more refined than the Nexus), and was marginally larger. 

To be honest: I only recently got 'into' Namisu pens with the release of their second pen project: the Nova. The Orion/Nexus never really spoke to me enough to justify buying one, but the Nova immediately did. Personally, I have always found the Nova to be the better looking pen of the two, the designs suits me better, but of course that's just a matter of personal taste.
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
Top to bottom: Namisu Nova Ti, Nova brass, Orion copper, X-01 brass.
A couple weeks ago I was sent the new solid copper version of the Orion to try out, which has made me reconsider my original disinterest in the Orion. Don't get me wrong, I still think the Nova has the upper hand in terms of design, but I do appreciate the Orion more now that I've had the chance to try one.
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
The Orion has a clean, simple cigar shape, tapered towards the finials that are completely flat (in theory you can stand this pen upright, but it's not super stable). The minimal design of the Orion is defined by four machined grooves around the section of the pen. It's what gives the pen its' recognizable character, but the design also offers a few functional benefits. The separations between cap, section and body are seamlessly integrated within the grooves, which makes it impossible to to see where which part begins and ends. Apart from this visual aspect, the grooves also provide some grip to an otherwise slick metal pen.
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
Patina on the left, shiny and polished on the right.
The copper construction gives the Orion a nice heft, but it's also a part of the design. It starts building up beautiful brown-red patina from the moment you pick it up. A copper or brass pen 'ages' the more you use it, and it becomes unique! Of course you can choose to polish it to a shine, but it won't take long before it starts tarnishing all over again.
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
At around 80 grams, calling it heavy would be an understatement. It's REALLY heavy, most likely far outside the comfort zone for a lot of people. Weight is something you always have to keep in mind with copper or brass pens. If the weight bothers you, Namisu offers a couple other material options that might suit you better, such as aluminium and titanium. These versions obviously offer the same design and functionality, but at a fraction of the weight (the Ti version, for example, weighs in at under 40 grams). 

The weight does bring some fatigue with longer writing sessions, but it's fine for short notes. To be honest I actually expected it to be worse. The threads are situated in front of the section, right behind the nib, so your grip won't be hindered. The grooves provide decent grip, and the general shape and dimensions of the pen fit comfortably in the hand. 
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
L to R: Namisu X-01, Nova brass, Orion copper, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Orion is a decently sized pen, and measures in at 14cm (5.5'') closed. Uncapped it comes in at a comfortable 13cm (5.1''). The cap is unusually small because it only covers the nib, and it isn't made to post. A pen this size is definitely comfortable enough for me to use unposted, so I didn't have any issues with not being able to post the cap.

Construction, fit and finish are excellent. All parts are machined from solid copper, and fit together precisely. So far all Namisu pens I have tried are very well-made, and the Orion is no exception. The only downside I found is that the section can occasionally unscrew when you try to unscrew the cap, but that's a minor nuisance.
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
I bought a titanium Nova with a titanium nib recently, and decided swap nibs with this one. It's a first for me, and it's also one of the few semi-flex nibs in my collection. It basically behaves like a normal nib with noticeable softness as long as you don't put pressure on it. Put some more weight on it, and the tines will open up a decent amount. I did a little writing sample to show the flexibility below, and you can clearly see (hopefully) that you can squeeze out a decent amount of line variation. I played safe and went for a medium, but if you want to get some more line variation, you can also opt for an EF or F nib. 
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
Apart from the line variation, the titanium nib also offers an overall pleasant writing experience. It has a bit more feedback than an equivalent steel nib, but I found this medium to be relatively smooth nevertheless. The feed delivers a good amount of ink (in general Bock nibs seem to be on the wet side), which is good, especially if you want to squeeze out some line variation. 
Namisu Orion fountain pen review
The Namisu Orion strikes a fine balance between minimal design and usability. The copper version is very heavy, and might not be for everyone, but I personally find it quite a comfortable pen to use. If a heavy pen is nothing for you, Namisu also offers the Orion in aluminium or Titanium, which might prove to be a more comfortable alternative.

Same as the brass Nova, the copper Orion retails at a very reasonable price of 70 GBP (86 USD), and they are currently offered on sale for only 60 GBP (74 USD). Prices include a steel nib, titanium nibs can be bought as an add-on.

Note: This product was sent to me by Namisu, 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.
Namisu Orion fountain pen review