Monday, August 21, 2017

QUICK LOOK: NAMISU NOVA TITANIUM STONEWASHED FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Quick look: Namisu Nova Titanium stonewashed fountain pen review
I couldn't help myself, I bought another Namisu Nova. In fact, I bought another titanium Nova. And the only difference with my other titanium Nova is the new stonewashed finish. Do you think I'm insane yet? I guess I can't blame you if you do. 
Quick look: Namisu Nova Titanium stonewashed fountain pen review
I already did a full review of the Namisu Nova Brass, in which I also discussed the brushed titanium Nova extensively (read here). So this review will be a bit less extensive, with a couple pictures to show the difference between the stonewashed and brushed titanium finishes.

The stonewashed finish basically does two things: it smooths out all edges, and it gives a sort of 'worn in' look. Interestingly, the microscratches from stonewashing make the titanium appear noticeably darker than with the brushed finish. The natural brown-ish grey color of the metal is much better represented.
Quick look: Namisu Nova Titanium stonewashed fountain pen review
The slightly smoother edges do give a slight improvement in comfort. Especially the step is less noticeable compared to the brushed titanium version, because it's more rounded off. But in reality the difference isn't that huge.

The other change the stonewashed finish brings -and also the reason why I wanted it- is the worn in look it creates. I really enjoy the brushed finish, but it's flawless and shiny out of the box, and it doesn't stay that way with use. It's an absolute scuff magnet, which I find makes it less enjoyable to use because I know I'm messing up the beautiful, clean finish.

However on the stonewashed finish, the pens come pre-messed up. It's basically full of random scuffs, which does a fantastic job at hiding all sorts of blemishes caused by normal everyday use. Ok, I admit I can be a bit OCD on keeping my pens pristine, but in this case I really like how the stonewashed finish gets rid of that problem for me.
Quick look: Namisu Nova Titanium stonewashed fountain pen review
L to R: Kaweco Sport Brass, Namisu Nova Ti brushed, Namisu Nova Ti stonewashed, Lamy Al-Star, Lamy 2000
The Nova is a decent size pen, but it 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. Uncapped, 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 most likely 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. But as I mentioned before, the stonewashed finish smooths out the step and makes it more comfortable. The titanium has some heft but I wouldn't exactly call it a heavy pen, weighing in at 40g (30g uncapped). 
Quick look: Namisu Nova Titanium stonewashed fountain pen review
I went with another steel EF nib this time around. It's not my usual pick, but the last steel Bock EF I tried was exceptionally good. The EF actually does lay down a pretty fine line. I'm not an expert on finer nibs, but it seems to be relatively true to size. For such a fine nib, it's surprisingly smooth and wet. It's also a bit springy, which I have read could be due to a slight batch variation in this year's production of the nibs. 
Quick look: Namisu Nova Titanium stonewashed fountain pen review
The Namisu Nova stonewashed titanium is a neat addition to their product lineup. If you ask me, it trumps the regular titanium version, and is well worth the 5 GBP premium. The stonewashed finish might not sound like much of an upgrade over the existing model, but it changes a lot in terms of the look and feel of the pen! 

With the added premium, the stonewashed titanium comes in at 84 GBP (110 USD). Namisu actually breaks an impressive price point with these pens (considerably lower than the competition). But at the same time, their production quality is second to none. That's a win in my book.

Note: This product was bought with my own funds. 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 affiliate links.
Quick look: Namisu Nova Titanium stonewashed fountain pen review

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

INEXPENSIVE: POKKA PENS POCKET PEN REVIEW

Inexpensive: Pokka Pens pocket pen review
I usually don't pay much attention to disposable pens. I suppose it's some kind of pen-snobbism, caused by having too many 'fancier' options on hand. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a good disposable pen when I find one. In fact, it can be incredibly satisfying to find a cheap pen that writes great. Also, despite having a myriad of pens to choose from, there are always occasions where an expensive (fountain) pen isn't practical. You know, those situations that really call for a cheap Bic stick but you can't find one? I've been there so many times myself!

And that's where Pokka Pens comes into play. You see, most of those scenarios where you need that fast, no-nonsense writing experience, happen when you are out and about. Carrying a full-sized Bic (or other cheapo pen) isn't practical. The symbiosis of affordable, no-nonsense and pocketable, that's the Pokka pen!
Inexpensive: Pokka Pens pocket pen review
Pokka pens have a very simple design. I found it largely inspired by the Kaweco Sport 'small in the pocket, large in the hand', but maybe even better for pocket carry. It's a very small pen when closed, measuring in at just 8.4 cm (3.3") long when closed, with a 1.1 cm (0.43") diameter. Even a Fisher Space pen or Kaweco Sport dwarfs it. The Pokka is made of injection molded plastic, the cap walls are thick, and overall the construction feels solid. At least solid enough to last until the refill is empty for sure.

While I was a bit hesitant at first about how a pen so small could be anywhere near usable, It's obviously very convenient for pocket carry. In fact, I'd often forget about it being in my pocket! Now, I'm not really an EDC kind of person, so I might not be the most knowledgeable person to say this, but I think the genius is in the fact that it's so small that you forget about it. It makes it an easy choice to take with you all the time. It doesn't bother you, yet it's there when you need it.
Inexpensive: Pokka Pens pocket pen review
The Pokka is kept closed with a rubber O-ring which makes the cap snap with a very satisfying sound. I'd find myself fidgeting with it all the time, which is both a good and bad thing I suppose. The back of the pen has the same diameter, and another o-ring, allowing the cap to be posted securely. The back portion of the pen is really short, so I wasn't sure if the cap would stay on securely while writing, but this turned out not to be a problem at all. 
Inexpensive: Pokka Pens pocket pen review
Inexpensive: Pokka Pens pocket pen review
L to R: Fisher Space Pen, Kaweco sport ballpoint, Pokka Pen, Kaweco sport fountain pen, Lamy 2000.
When posted, the pen transforms into a full-sized 14 cm (5.5") pen. For a ballpoint, that's actually quite long, so definitely no problem in terms of comfort in that area. I did find the hexagonal profile grip section to be a little narrow, but that comes from someone who generally prefers larger pens. For the intended use, the Pokka pen offers a comfortable writing experience, and I actually found myself often using it for longer note taking sessions too.
Inexpensive: Pokka Pens pocket pen review
I've been playing with these little pens for a while now, and to be honest I never thought I'd have so many uses for it. They have been part of my daily carry for the past three months or so, and while there have been days that this little pocket pen didn't leave my pocket, there have also been times where it saved the day.  

Now of course it's still a disposable ballpoint. So yeah, when it comes to the actual writing, you shouldn't expect the best writing experience in the world. It comes standard with a black, medium refill (the only option as far as I can tell), which works as a ballpoint is supposed to work. It's smooth and lays down a relatively consistent, dark line. But when you're used to rollerballs or gel ink pens, you won't be able to get that here. 

UPDATE: The Pokka Pens website has been updated, and as of now refills are also available in blue or black (2.95 USD per pack of 3). The Pokka pen isn't designed to be re-used, but with a pair of pliers you can easily pull out the old refill and then just friction fit the new one. 
Inexpensive: Pokka Pens pocket pen review
The idea behind the Pokka pens is straightforward and well-executed. At 8.45 USD for a pack of 3 (some colorways are a bit more expensive). It's pretty hard not to recommend trying them out. They are affordable, sturdy, no-brainer pens. Put one in your pocket or purse, and I assure you they'll come in handy more often than you'd think.

Note: This product was sent to me by Pokka Pens, 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 affiliate links.
Inexpensive: Pokka Pens pocket pen review

Sunday, August 6, 2017

ENNSO PIUMA FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
How many times have I said that I like Minimalist design? Probably at least a million times, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the pen we're looking at today, the new ENSSO Piuma, is right up my alley! Ensso is a relatively young company, with this only being the second pen project from their hand. The Piuma is a clean, rounded cigar-shaped pen that fits in perfectly with their minimal design mindset. Just like their first pen project, the Piuma started out as a kickstarter campaign. 

Without a doubt, Minimal design is by far the most popular category among Kickstarter projects. Definitely not something I'll complain about, I'm a huge fan of simple and clean products. Of course that's a very personal opinion, if you don't get excited when you hear the word minimal, this might not be the pen for you. 
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
Minimal packaging with just a bit of bling in the branding
Talking about Kickstarter: I'm quite a fan! Despite not being a frequent backer, I do like it as a platform that enables creative people to start a business. The products that arise from it are often much more exciting than the things we see from established brands. It's like a breath of fresh air! I'm not saying ditch the established brands and let's all focus on Kickstarter products, but I do like the variety in products it creates.

But enough blabbing, let's take a look at the pens. I couldn't decide, so I got one of each metal finish availaible: matte black anodised aluminium, solid brass and solid titanium. Once again -this is something I always enjoy when a metal pen is available in different metal finishes- each metal has its own feeling, advantages, but also disadvantages.
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
The rounded shape is not only pleasing to look at, but also just fun to hold and play with in your hands. Minimal design is not everyone's cup of tea, yet the design of the Piuma is rather versatile and forgiving I think. It's hard not to like it once you pick it up, it's a shape that just...works. 
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
Whereas the Namisu Nova (another brilliant minimal design) has a lot in common with the Nakaya Piccolo, the Piuma could well be influenced by something like the Nakaya Cigar. It's funny how many similarities can be drawn between traditional Urushi pens, and modern minimal metal pens. Then again, it's undeniable that brands like Nakaya know a thing or two about pleasing designs, so perhaps brands like Ensso and Namisu are onto something, reaching back to those traditional influences.
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
The Ensso Piuma titanium next to the Namisu Nova titanium
As is always the case, there isn't much to say about the design of the pen. No flashy details, no unnecessary clutter here, just the bare minimum. The only detail on the outside of the pen is the small Ensso logo. It's neatly engraved near the bottom of the cap, and I think it is tastefully done without distracting from the minimal feeling. 
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
As I said, I always find it interesting how different materials make for an entirely different pen. The aluminium Piuma is understated and stealthy, especially with the black coated nib. The anodised finish is coarse and gives the pen a pleasant texture in the hand. But I do generally find the aluminium version perhaps a bit bland, compared to the other two. 

The brass version is more my kind of thing, Disclaimer: it's insanely heavy, but that's actually something I really enjoy. It just feels solid, and actually quite balanced in the hand, and the material on itself is stunning when it ages. 

Finally the titanium version, the most expensive of the three. Once again, I think the titanium version has the upper hand over the other metals. It's just a really good compromise between weight and comfort. Titanium metal has an interesting warm, slightly darker grey color compared to bare aluminium. Frankly, before I bought my titanium Namisu Nova, I thought titanium was a much darker grey metal. I thought it would look like those titanium bock nibs, which is a matte dark grey. But apparently the smooth machined finish makes it appear more silvery and shiny. I would like to see a pen manufacturer make a titanium pen that actually matches the finish of a titanium Bock nib, which I think shows off the material at its best.
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
One downside about the titanium version is that the block threads feel quite rough, and they make an annoying squeeky noise when opening and closing the pen. The aluminium version also has that 'gritty' feel, but it doesn't make that noise. Surprisingly the brass version has buttery smooth threads. The threads on the titanium pen seem to break in over time, and it has definitely improved, so I hope the squeeky noise goes away completely at some point (however, there's no telling how long that'll take).

Uncapping the pen, squeeky or not, reveals what I think is the strong suit of this pen. Ok the design and all is nice, but the section is really where the Ensso Piuma shines. Minimal design often implies simple shapes, yet the section of the Piuma is not simple and it still fits in perfectly with the overall design.
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
The section has a slight bulge, and it tapers down towards the nib with a flare at the end. Compared to the straight (and relatively short) section of the Namisu Nova, the Piuma has a huge advantage in terms of comfort. Inherent to the design of both pens (flush cap and barrel), there's a noticeable step behind the threads. Yet on the Piuma it doesn't give any issues, where the Nova kind of lacks in terms of comfort. The larger, and more comfortably shaped section make this an enjoyable pen to write with, despite being a metal section.Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
L to R: Kaweco brass sport, Baron Fig Squire, Namisu Nova, Ensso Piuma, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
In terms of size, the Piuma is a relatively large and bulky pen. It measures in at 14 cm (5.51"), and 12.8 cm (5.03") uncapped. The diameter of the widest part measures 1.5 cm (0.59"). The cap is not designed to be posted, but since this is a larger pen, I didn't have any issues using it unposted.

As for the weight, the aluminium of course comes in lightest, at 32g. The titanium weighs in at 54g, solid but balanced. And the brass is a hefty 94g. Safe to say if you generally like light, resin pens, you might want to stay away from the brass one.
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
Bock nibs: black coated steel, polished steel, titanium.
I may have said this before, and I'll repeat it now: I really like Bock's #6 nibs. I really do. I've gone from zero to about nine or ten in under a year, and so far I've had little to no issues with any of them. The broad steel nib I got on the brass Piuma had a slight baby's bottom to it, where it would occasionally hard start. Nothing a little micromesh couldn't fix, but that was pretty much the only issue I've had with any of these #6 nibs out of the box.
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
The black coated steel nibs are a bit coarser in the beginning when the coating still needs to wear off on the tipping, but other than that I couldn't notice any difference in performance to the steel or titanium nibs. The titanium nibs also have a bit more tooth to them, but if you want something with a little bounce, and even some decent line variation (if you know how to use it), they are well worth the premium. I did a quick comparison with a couple different nibs to show the flexibility of the titanium nibs, which is actually quite impressive when compared to a 600$ Aurora 88 Anniversario with a dedicated 'flexible' gold nib (you can see the impressive line variation in the comparison below).
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review
Flexibility: (top to bottom) Bock #6 steel EF, titanium EF, titanium M, Aurora Anniversario 14k Super Flessibile F.
The Ensso Piuma is a very interesting pen. They nailed it on the minimal design, and managed to also make it a very comfortable pen to use. All three material options have their pros and cons, but as usual the titanium version comes out as the most versatile middle ground. I personally really like pens with Bock nibs due to the wide variety in sizes and materials, ranging from simple (but capable) steel, titanium for some flex, up to gold nibs (that I haven't tried yet).  

Prices vary based on the material and nib options, with base prices (steel nib) of 79USD (aluminium), 99USD (brass), or 139USD (titanium), the titanium nibs command a 40 dollar premium. Pricing is fair (quite comparable with other similar machined metal pens), given the quality of the Piuma, and the fact that they are designed and made in the USA. The latter definitely being worth a premium if supporting local businesses is something you care for. 

Note: I received a discount on the purchase of this product from Ensso. 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. 
Ensso Piuma fountain pen review