Saturday, July 22, 2017

INKTASTIC: LAMY PETROL SPECIAL EDITION INK REVIEW

Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review
Maybe the most elusive ink of the moment? At least that seems to be the status Lamy is going for with their special edition Petrol ink. It's the ink that matches this year's (2017) Safari Petrol special edition release. But whereas the pen is rather easy to get a hold of, the ink is lagging behind and is only available sporadically. I don't know what it is with brands having issues fulfilling shipments of new releases to retailers, but it seems to be happening more frequently, and it can be really frustrating. 
Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review
But I assume you didn't come here for a rant, so  let's have a look at the ink... 

I knew it would be quite difficult for Lamy to top last year's Dark Lilac ink with their new release, but they did a respectable job. Note that I don't say they actually made a better ink than Dark lilac, it's still not on the same level in my opinion. 
Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review
Petrol is, as the name suggests, a petrol blue-green kind of color. It actually makes sense that they'd go for something in this color family, since Pelikan's success with last year's Edelstein Aquamarine and J.Herbin with Emerald of Chivor, both of which are somewhat in the same ballpark in terms of color. However Petrol is much, much darker and less saturated, leaning close to a dark grey-ish color. I found that it compares quite strongly to KWZ Rotten green, for those of you familiar with that ink, which is also this mucky, dark, green-ish ink. Judging from chromatography results, it's basically a blue-black, but with a hint of olive green in it to give it that petrol color. 

I like the color a lot actually, because it's something sober and classy. This is an ink I'd feel comfortable using for everyday writing at work, or school. It's not distracting, easily legible and yet not just another boring black.
Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review
One area where I knew Petrol would struggle to improve over Dark Lilac, is sheen and shading. Petrol definitely has shading, but because the base color is already quite dark, the shading doesn't provide a stark contrast like you get from lighter inks. Sheen is also kind of mediocre. On the right paper, and in places where it gets the chance to pool, you can notice some dark red/black sheen. But that being said, you really need to lay down a lot of ink for it to become easily noticeable. All in all, a bit underwhelming I must say.
Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review
Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review
Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review
Other than visual properties, it does perform very decent. It's a relatively wet, free-flowing ink, resulting in fairly long dry times from my experience. It's smooth but not noticeably lubricated. I wouldn't call it waterproof, but the strong black base of the ink does have some water-resistance so it remains faintly visible.
Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review
All in all, this is definitely an ink I can see myself using for note-taking and stuff like that. It's a nice subtle ink with a little pop of color to it. If you can get a hold of a bottle of Lamy Petrol, I think it's definitely worth checking out, as they are priced very reasonably around the 10 dollar mark for a 50ml bottle. I got a sample of this ink as part of the Inxperiment, which is Appelboom's ink sample subscription service. They often include samples of interesting new inks, so it's an easy way to check those out!
Appelboom pennen
Note: Appelboom is a sponsor of this blog. This product was provided 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.
Inktastic: Lamy Petrol special edition ink review

Sunday, July 9, 2017

PENS & CHEMISTRY - MATERIALS

Pens and Chemistry - Materials
I’ve been thinking about doing a series of posts that brings together the two passions in my life: Chemistry (as some of you will know, I study Chemistry), and pens. But I held off on it for a very long time. I guess, simply because it required too much preparation work, and frankly there were a lot of things I still didn’t understand in my first years at uni. 

Chemistry isn’t everyone’s favorite topic, which is something I’m fully aware of. Yet I found out over the years of collecting pens and studying that there’s a lot of chemistry in pens and inks (well to be precise, there’s a lot of chemistry in literally everything, but I digress again…). So I thought it would be cool to show some chemistry that is relevant to our hobby. 

Before I start rambling, please don’t forget that this is supposed to be a fun post (the definition of ‘fun’ can be quite subjective), different from what I usually do. It’s not supposed to be a complete chemistry textbook, and I’m just a human so I can’t promise everything is completely correct. Secondly, I’d like to apologize in advance for throwing with terminology. Unfortunately, terminology is key in the way chemists try to communicate, so there’s no way to work around that. 

METALS 

Pens and Chemistry - Materials
As I mentioned, chemistry is usually taught in a complimentary way, establishing a base, and building up from there. Since we don’t want this to become a 1000 page textbook, I’ll only explain the interesting bits, if you really want to understand everything you’ll have to do some more reading. 

Something I have to start with, is mentioning that chemistry can basically be divided in two main categories: Inorganic and organic. Organic chemistry is carbon-based, which includes all living matter (and thus you and me as well). Inorganic is pretty much everything else. 
Pens and Chemistry - Materials
When I look at the pens on my desk, I see a lot of metals. Metals are part of the inorganic chemistry field. They are interesting for their durability, and thus the entire EDC hype of super sturdy pens is basically built around metals. Metals have a crystalline structure, which means the atoms are stacked neatly in a specific way. A model that explains why metals behave like metals, and not like a mineral (which is also a crystal), is explained by the model of the electron cloud. Each atom in the crystal is held in place by a ‘cloud’ of shared electrons that moves randomly throughout the metal structure. It's a simplified depiction, but it shows that the forces that make up the metal are more of an interaction, instead of rigid bonds. This explains why metals are malleable without breaking, and why they are good conductors.
Pens and Chemistry - Materials
Metals can be categorized as inorganic materials, and they are usually made up of the corresponding atoms. Aluminium is made up of aluminium atoms, titanium out of titanium atoms, and so on. Then we have things like steel, or brass, which are alloys. Simply put, an alloy is when you mix two or more metals together in a forge. Steel for example, is a mixture of iron (Fe) and carbon (C), stainless steel adds chromium or other additive metals to it. Brass, another alloy, is made up mostly of copper (Cu) and Zinc (Zn), there used to be a small amount of lead (Pb) in it, but these days lead is avoided because it’s not the healthiest.

PLASTICS

Pens and Chemistry - Materials
Plastics belong in the camp of organic chemistry. Basically, when you look at pens, everything that’s not metal is a plastic one way or the other. Plastic is a not-so-scientific name for these materials, but it has become the generalized name for them throughout the years. In fact, plastic is actually the term that describes a physical behavior where an object under stress is deformed. Using this term to describe the class of materials we’ll discuss in a minute originates from the fact that many of them have a ‘plastic’ behavior.

Now since plastic is such a generalized term, it covers an immense amount of ground. In pen-terms that means everything from ebonite to acrylic to ABS injection molded pens can be called plastic pens. This is an area where there’s a lot of discussion, stating a high-end resin pen is not the same as a cheap ‘plastic’ pen. Technically, yes they all have different chemical structures, but they are all pretty much the same class of products. 
Pens and Chemistry - Materials
Now what are plastics exactly? Plastics are polymers. Polymers are literally all around us: a bottle of water, the rubber eraser on your pencil, even the paper you write on, which contains cellulose, a natural polymer of sugar atoms (not the kind of sugar you’d eat, I hope). So to explain what plastics are, we should first look at what a polymer is.

The easiest explanation I could think of is a pearl necklace. A polymer is basically a pearl necklace, where all the pearls represent a smaller molecule that is linked together to form long chains. Some of these ‘necklaces’ can be over 1000 pearls long! Each ‘pearl’ molecule that makes up the chain, is called a monomer (mono being ‘one’, and poly meaning ‘many’)

I’ve already mentioned that organic chemistry comprises all living matter. Even plastics (which are not living for what I can remember) are actually connected to living matter, because they are largely made from fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are basically a soup of prehistoric life (dinosaurs and plants and stuff), which is pumped up from deep within the earth’s crust. This soup contains a wide variety of different molecules, all of which can be used for different purposes: gasoline, asphalt, but also the molecular building blocks with which polymers and other organic materials are made. All these molecules have one thing in common: carbon! Carbon forms the backbone of all organic chemistry, literally. Together with hydrogen, these are the two most prominent atoms that can be found in organic chem (along with oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus,… to a lesser degree). 
Pens and Chemistry - Materials
So let’s look at pens now. We have established a base that is necessary to understand what the plastic materials in our pens are, and now we can look at some examples. First of all, let’s look at the cheapest plastic pens. These are made by a process of injection molding. Injection molding basically takes a polymer that has been pre-made into small granulates, heats it up, so that it becomes almost liquid, and injects it in a mold that is shaped like the desired object (one way to spot injection molded parts, is that there’s almost always a visible seam, and a ‘nipple’ from where the material was injected in the mold). One of the most used polymers in this category is ABS, which is made up of three different monomers: Acrylonitrile, Butadiene and Styrene, the three pearls that make up the necklace. ABS is what the Lamy Safari, Kaweco Sport, and many other injection molded pens are made out of.

Polycarbonate is often used as a transparent material, but is also used for the ever-so popular Lamy 2000 (the material of the 2000 is actually called Makrolon, but it is essentially the same).
Pens and Chemistry - Materials
When we look at fancier pens, the production method is often different to begin with, with the material being shaped on a CNC machine from a solid cast rod, instead of being injection molded. This is mainly because you can’t achieve the same intricate patterns with injection molding. Different polymers are used here, for example acrylates are probably the most commonly used. Acrylates are very common in polymer chemistry, and can be had in an incredibly wide variety of shapes. In this case, PMMA or poly-methylmethacrylate is quite a common one.

Interestingly, materials containing acrylonitrile monomers are also called acrylates. For the sharp readers among you, this may ring a bell, as indeed this is the same monomer that can be found in ABS plastic. This should give an indication as to how much all of these materials are actually related, even though they may not appear alike.
Pens and Chemistry - Materials
Then we are left with the more exotic materials, like ebonite, or celluloid. Ebonite is actually rubber that has been heat treated with sulfur, and is also called ‘vulcanized rubber’. This process is quite interesting, because the reaction with a sulfur compound connects all the loose polymer chains of the rubber to form a strongly connected network of polymer chains.
Pens and Chemistry - Materials
Celluloid is actually a tricky one. Remember that I mentioned paper being a polymer? Well the cellulose from paper is actually also an important component of celluloid. Cellulose is chemically altered to yield nitrocellulose, which has nitro (nitrogen and oxygen) groups attached to the chains. Maybe not entirely unrelated, trinitrotoluene (better known as TNT) also has these nitro groups, and it's quite an explosive mess. Needless to say celluloid is a bit unstable. If you remember the scene of Inglorious Bastards where the cinema is destroyed in a blazing inferno of burning film reels… yeah those are also celluloid!

Many brands (often Italian pen manufacturers) use a material called ‘cotton resin’. This is actually more related to celluloid than you’d think. Celluloid is made from nitrocellulose polymers, cotton resin is made from cellulose (cotton, the same as that found in your clothing, is nothing more than cellulose). Of course we’re talking about different production processes and things like that, but yet again it goes to show how similar a lot of these materials are.

Maybe you’re wondering why I haven’t explained what the term ‘resin’ means? I mention it throughout this post, but frankly it’s not a correct term to use for the materials you see used in pens. By definition, a resin is the precursor for a polymer. It is in fact often just a liquid mixture of monomers that haven’t undergone a chemical reaction yet that links them together (curing). It’s an often-used term by brands and bloggers (me included), but technically it’s not correct. 
Pens and Chemistry - Materials
Now to end this -rather elaborate- post, there's still one important material that hasn't been mentioned: the illustrous 'Precious Resin'! Now of course I'm talking about Montblanc's proprietary black plastic they use for many of their pens, like the Meisterstück. Unfortunately, nobody knows the exact composition of the material, which is a shame because it often leads to discussion within the community. There's no way to give a final answer as to what MB's material is, precious resin or just plain old plastic, but we can speculate about it.

The answer is two-fold: In the Chemical jargon, precious resin is a plastic. Any man-made polymer material, be it precious resin, acrylic, ABS or polycarbonate,... is in fact a plastic. Even polymer materials based on natural substances, such as celluloid or cotton resin, are plastics. On the other hand, chemically speaking there’s an enormous variation between different materials that are categorized as ‘plastics’, and they all offer different characteristics. From a brand’s perspective, I think trying to step away from the term plastic has everything to do with semantics. Plastic sounds cheap, and thus an entire slew of other names is used to try to work around it. In the end, there's no need to talk crap about precious resin, but it also shouldn't be glorified. 

I think that's all I have to say! This has to be the longest post I’ve ever put together. I know it might not be the most interesting topic I’ve ever written, but from a scientists’ perspective I really wanted to write this post to clear things out, and I’m glad that I finally got to it.

I’d be really happy to hear from you what you think of this post, and if you’d like to read more posts like it (not that I plan on making this into a full-time scientific blog). If you want to read more about chemistry, I’d suggest Wikipedia (no, that’s not a joke). Wikipedia is actually a pretty reliable source for information on scientific topics, and it’s an immense catalog that offers the entire A to Z of the magical world of chemistry! If you want more information on materials for pens specifically, Richard Binders website has some really interesting reading.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

PELIKAN SOUVERAN M800 RENAISSANCE SPECIAL EDITION FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
A new year, a new special edition Pelikan Souverän M800. What did you expect? We've come to find something fresh from Pelikan each year, and this time they really outdid themselves! In contrast to last year's Vibrant Blue, which IMHO wasn't that great, I think the Renaissance turned out amazing, it has the potential to live up to the iconic tortoise (that I continue to search for). 
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
Before we move on, let me just point out that this will be a photo-heavy post, rather than an in-depth review. If you want to read more about the Pelikan Souverän M800 in general, take a look at the Pelikan reviews page.
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
The Vibrant Blue was a bit too... vibrant for my eyes, the Renaissance is the exact opposite, just the way I like my pens: subtle yet unique. The dark brown acrylic is inspired by the chiaroscuro (light-dark) painting style of the Renaissance. It's semi-translucent, but this only shows through where the material is at its thinnest, which is the cap in this case. What really makes it special, are the pearlescent white/beige flecks scattered throughout the material. It gives the material depth and visual interest. 
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
L to R: Pelikan Souverän M400, M1000, M800, Lamy safari, Lamy 2000
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
One more thing I'd like to talk about is the nib. It's only the second time I've used one of Pelikan's 18k fine nibs, but I'm enjoying it a lot. As usual, the fine nib on a Pelikan is more like a solid medium, but that's actually what I like about it. For normal everyday writing, Pelikan's medium nibs are a bit too wide to be really versatile. 
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review
Pelikan did a pretty outstanding job on the Renaissance, what more can I say? The regular Pelikan Souveran M800 models retail for around 440 EUR (610 USD), where the Renaissance goes for a slight premium at 490 EUR (640 USD). The Renaissance has been extremely popular ever since the announcement, so you definitely shouldn't wait around for too long if you're interested.
Note: La Couronne Du Comte is a sponsor of this blog. I received a discount on the purchase of this product.  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.
Pelikan Souverän M800 Renaissance special edition fountain pen review