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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

INKTASTIC: ROBERT OSTER KHAKHI INK REVIEW

Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review
New ink brands are popping up around every corner it seems. Obviously that's a good thing because it shows more and more people are getting interested in fountain pens. Additionally something new and interesting to try is always exciting, so you won't hear me complain at all! 

However, at first I am usually a bit hesitant to try out new ink brands. You don't know if the quality is good, there's no proof of long-term quality or how it affects your pens,... So it took me a while to explore what seems to be one of the most hyped ink brands of the moment: Robert Oster Signature ink. German store Papier&Stift offered to send me a few bottles to review, so of course I had to take the opportunity. One of the colors they sent is this: Robert Oster Khakhi.
Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review
Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review
The wide variety of colors seems predominantly a selection of bright, vivid colors, but it's the darker, more unique inks that I seem to be mostly interested in. Such as this khakhi green. It's a murky olive green/ochre yellow. Yes, I do realise green and yellow are two different colors, but this is definitely something in between, it's hard to describe if you don't see it in person (the pictures will give you an idea but it seems to be just a hint more yellow in person).
Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review
So far all Robert Oster inks I've been able to try seemed to behave very well, and they offer a few properties that I really enjoy in an ink. 
Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review
Lamy Safari - medium nib
Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review
Lamy Safari - broad nib
Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review
Lamy Safari - 1.5mm stub nib
It's more than dark enough to be legible in finer nibs, but it shines in wider nibs, or even stubs. You can get a nice amount of crisp shading from it, no sheen though. It's a well-behaved ink with a moderate to wet flow and it plays well in all pens I've used it in so far. They also seem to be quite resistant to bleeding and feathering, but they are not waterproof
Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review
It has been a pretty pleasant first encounter with the Australian brand. Which shows from the amount of bottles I bought in the past few months (cough, quite a few...), I think it's safe to say that they have some pretty great inks. 

Despite only being a relatively young brand, they already offer somewhere around 60 different colors, and I seem to constantly find new and unique shades that I like. Robert Oster Khakhi is an interesting one, with a rather strange color that is hard to define, but beautiful nonetheless. If you like more subtle, earthy inks, this is one to try out. Robert oster inks come in tall, slender plastic bottles that are easy to fill from. Prices are on the higher side, at 16.5 EUR (16USD) for a 50ml bottle, but they are worth it in my opinion.

Note: this product was sent to me by Papier & Stift, 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.
Robert oster Khakhi fountain pen ink review