Sunday, February 28, 2021

REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
We're taking a look at another new - to me - brand today: Taccia! Despite only having been around for about 20 years, the history of Taccia is rather convoluted. The TL;DR is that they started as a US-based company, but they're now part of a larger Japanese stationery conglomerate (Nakabayashi). 

Taccia's earlier products - mostly in the sub-200$ range - never really managed to captivate me. Though things certainly became a bit more interesting once they started getting into urushi, Raden, and maki-e, which seems to have really gained them some more traction within the pen community. Even though they might not (yet) enjoy the 'cult status' of big brands like Nakaya, Namiki, or Sailor in the Urushi game, Taccia's urushi work really deserves some attention, as I think they're doing some really interesting and creative things with traditional lacquering techniques! 
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
Packaging is just packaging... But damn, this is a really nice box!
Some of those urushi and Raden techniques make an appearance on the Taccia Polar Lights fountain pen collection, which we'll be looking at today. My thanks go out to Catherine from Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery (one of our site sponsors!) for trusting me with these beauties for a short while!
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
The Polar Lights pens are based on a standard ebonite base shape that Taccia uses for most of their urushi collections. The design of the pen itself is kept quite simple and straightforward (which isn't too uncommon for Urushi and maki-e pens, as it puts more emphasis on the urushi finish itself): a straight, cylindrical pen with flat finials. The barrel is quite long, which makes for a rather unusual cap-to-barrel ratio. The cap is slightly wider than the barrel, though it transitions smoothly into the barrel with a rounded off edge. 
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
Taccia's urushi pens all have clips. Practical? Sure, but I find that clips tend to interfere with the urushi finish (especially on more complex Raden and maki-e finishes) so I'd have preferred a clipless option. Besides, it's not like I tend to casually clip thousand-dollar pens to my shirt pocket anyway (that's a bit too much livin' on the edge for my taste). That said, I do have to admit that this particular clip looks quite good. The curvy and rounded shape of the clip provides a stark contrast with the straight and angular design of the rest of the pen.
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, Taccia's urushi pens really caught my eye through the wild and uncommon combinations of different lacquering techniques. For the Polar Lights series, the base is lacquered with an Akebono-like gradient of urushi that transitions from a dark color in the center, towards a brighter color at the finials. They overlaid that with precisely arranged Raden strips, applied lengthwise around the top of the cap and end of the barrel. 
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
The Polar Lights is available in three colorways: red (Amairo Haruakane), green (Amairo Jiu), and blue (Amairo Hekiku), and they really outdid themselves on the colors of the urushi. The colors are vibrant, but not too bright, and the finish is consistent.
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
Upon closer inspection, there's actually more to the finish than you may think. It looks like only the finials are red, green, or blue, and it fades out to black towards the center of the pen, but that's actually not true. It's very subtle, but the base color is actually dark green, red or blue, to match the rest of the pen. Less subtle are the Raden strips, which are color-matched to the pen (if I'm not mistaken, they do this by painting the back of the mother of pearl). The end result is a striking pen with more than enough shimmering Raden to get around, and yet it's not too crazy for my - typically subtle - taste.
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Montblanc 149, Scribo Feel, Eboya Houga L, Sailor Pro Gear, Taccia Polar Lights, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
The proportions of the Taccia Polar Lights are quite interesting. With 15 cm/ 5.9" capped, it sits comfortably amongst other large, oversized pens like the Montblanc 149. The straight, untapered shape of the Polar Lights doesn't allow for the cap to be posted. Though, with an uncapped length of 13.2 cm/ 5.2", I've never missed the ability to post the cap, anyway. 
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
So they're not small, and not particularly slim either (though not quite as chubby as the Montblanc 149 or Eboya Houga Large, pictured above). BUT! The section is surprisingly narrow compared to the rest of the pen. At the narrowest point, it measures just 9.7 mm/ 0.38", which is a bit on the skinny side for my taste. 

With a narrow section like that, you do get quite a transition towards the barrel, but it's quite gradually stepped and the block threads aren't sharp, so you don't notice it too much in the hand. All in all, it's not an uncomfortable pen to write with, though I certainly would've preferred a slightly wider section. With a total weight of 30 grams, it's not too heavy for a pen this size.
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
The Polar Lights fills via Sailor's standard cartridge converter. Frankly, these converters aren't the best on the market and the ink capacity isn't huge, but they do the job. And especially with one of Sailor's finer nibs, ink capacity isn't really a big concern, anyway. 
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
On the inside of the cap, you'll find a spring-loaded inner cap, similar to those found on Wancher and Esterbrook pens, to prevent the nib from drying out. Though the implementation on the Taccia pens seems a bit more subtle (the spring tension isn't so strong) making it more practical and easy to use.
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
A particularly interesting point about most, if not all, Taccia pens - and presumably also a firm selling point for those who like Japanese fountain pens - is that Taccia actually uses Sailor-made nibs in their pens. Western brands that manufacture their own nibs, don't typically share them with other brands, but it's cool to see that Sailor has a more open mindset towards this.
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Taccia Polar Lights, Sailor Pro Gear, Montblanc 149
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
Again, the proportions of the Taccia are quite interesting. Look at that tiny nib!
What you get under the hood is a 14k gold, small bicolor nib, the same size as the nibs found on Sailor's 1911S or Pro Gear Slim. Yes, that's exactly how you'd imagine it in your head: a very tiny nib, on a pretty huge pen! Because the section tapers down quite strongly, the nib does manage to still look somewhat balanced on this massive pen. Though, needless to say, this pen at the very least deserved one of Sailor's larger 21k nibs. The nib received a custom engraving with the Taccia logo, and it's bi-color plated. 
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
To be honest, the nib performance was not quite as spotless as I had anticipated. Although Japanese nibs are usually worshipped as the pinnacle of consistency (and to be honest, they typically are more consistent!), my experience with these nibs illustrated that any brand can have nib issues out of the box, not just Western brands. I tried two hard Fine (H-F) nibs, and the first one was considerably drier and finer out of the box, which in turn also made it more feedback-heavy. The second one matched my expectation pattern, with a more balanced ink flow, and a line width comparable to a narrow Western EF. To be fair, both nibs were consistent, skip-free writers, and the ink flow (though dry on one of the pens) never hesitated.
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN
The Taccia Polar Lights fountain pens sell for 875€ (incl. VAT, at our sponsor Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery). Oh, and it's a limited edition as well, with only 100 pieces per color being made. To call it a bargain would perhaps be a slight overstatement. But for an urushi pen with Raden decoration, that's actually quite a competitive price!

These products were provided on loan by Sakura Fountain Pen Galleryso 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.
REVIEW: TACCIA POLAR LIGHTS FOUNTAIN PEN

Thursday, February 18, 2021

REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE #8 NIB FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE #8 NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
Flecks of green, orange AND blue? A wild color choice for someone like me. But oh my, just look at it!
How to make a great pen even greater? That's the question Leonardo must've been pondering on. And the answer, as it turns out, is simple: just make it physically 'greater'!

Ok, to be fair, it's not that the MZ Grande #8 is effectively a better pen than the regular versions. It's just different, and it's - yet another - choice in the stables of Leonardo. So obviously I think it's warranted to take a closer at this specific version as well! Once again, a quick thank you to Leonardo Officina Italiana, for making this review possible!
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE #8 NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
To be clear, the #8 is close to identical to the regular Momento Zero Grande (reviewed HERE), and you can get them in the same material options of the regular collection (this particular one is the wild, but lovely, 'Girasole'!) the difference is all about the nib (as you'd expect). While I've never found the #6 nibs on the Leonardo Momento Zero Grande to look particularly out of place (In part because the strong taper of the section transitions quite naturally into the #6-sized nibs), a pen as large as the MZ Grande undoubtedly makes an excellent candidate for a #8 nib transplant. 
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE #8 NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
Identical, other than the slightly larger cap
The nib isn't the only aspect of the new MZ Grande #8 that is physically greater than the standard #6 version, the pen itself also grew a bit! The change in size is all in the cap, to accommodate for the substantially larger nib, of course. The slightly stretched-out cap doesn't really make the proportions of the pen feel off, though I do think the cap does have a slightly chunkier look and feel. The difference is quite minimal though, I feel like you really have to put both versions side by side to really see which is which. 
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE #8 NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE #8 NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Pelikan M1005, Montblanc 149, Leonardo MZ Grande, Furore Grande, MZ Grande #8, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Leonardo Momento Zero Grande #8 measures 15.4 cm/ 6.06" capped - 3 mm longer than the regular version of the MZ Grande - but is otherwise identical to the regular version of the MZ Grande (check my previous review HERE, for the full specs!). If the MZ Grande wasn't a large enough pen, this #8-nibbed behemoth surely will be enough? It's hard to really grasp the scale of these pens until you put them next to a Pelikan M1000 or Montblanc 149, both of which are absolutely dwarfed in the comparison.

Comfort-wise (looking at this mainly in function of how comfort changes with the #8 nib, because it's otherwise identical to the normal #6-nibbed version), I sometimes feel like I have less control over large #8-sized nibs because of the distance between your grip and the paper. However, the MZ Grande #8 handles the large nib quite well because the shape of the section naturally puts your grip quite close to the nib. 
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE #8 NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
The #8 nib is a standard-issue 14k (only gold nibs available for the #8 size!) example from the stables of Bock (despite Leonardo's recent switch to JoWo nibs for all their other nibs). The engraved details remain the same from the #6 nibs, and I find the way these nibs aren't over-decorated - just the Leonardo logo front and center - quite pleasant. 
The 14k fine nib balances very well between smoothness and subtle feedback, and is an enjoyable and responsive writer because of that. The massive nib rests on an equally massive ebonite feed - I believe also made in-house by Leonardo? - which once again provides ample flow. Especially for this fine nib, the feed easily manages to keep up of course. Depending on your preferences, the ink flow can certainly be seen as overwhelming, probably not ideal for everyday writing (I'm looking at you, crappy office paper!). 

The fine nib runs on the wider side of a western fine, close to medium, which is to be expected by to the rich ink flow and inherent softness of this large nib. Talking about softness: the #8 nib does provide a noticeably cushioned, soft writing feel, but it's clearly not aimed at line variation. You can coax some wider lines out of it with slight pressure, but I wouldn't recommend taking the risk, as you could spring it if you're not careful.
Large nibs carry an inherent large premium, and the Leonardo Momento Zero Grande #8 unfortunately isn't any different in that regard. The #8 will set you back around 660€ / 645$ (The #8 is available only on special order through most retailers, like Casa Della Stilografica! Use discount code 'Firenze' for 10% off!) Though that does net you a 14k nib (no other nib materials are available in the #8 size), it's still a rather hefty 160€ premium over the 500€ of the 14k gold #6 nib version! That's substantial, and to be honest, the choice totally boils down to a personal preference (is the #8 nib worth it for you?). Functionally, you'll be fine with either of the two (heck, even the steel nibs are pretty great writers!).

NOTE: I received a discount on the purchase of this product by Leonardo Officina Italiana, 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.

Monday, February 15, 2021

QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN

QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
Yesterday we took a look at the Momento Zero Grande 2020 (review HERE) from Leonardo Officina Italiana, and today I have somewhat of a world-premiere (nothing short of a miracle, given how terribly slow I usually am at publishing reviews!): a first quick look at the all-new Leonardo MZ Grande 'Pura' collection! If you follow Leonardo on Instagram, you may have already caught a glimpse of the Pura in his stories. It certainly didn't get past me unnoticed!

I'll let the photos do most of the talking here, but there are three simple reasons why I'm so excited about this new colorway:
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
The - now sold out - Stilo&Stile Frosted special edition
1) A few months ago I purchased the Stilo&Stile x Leonardo Momento Zero Grande 'Frosted' - a clear frosted demonstrator - and couldn't help but wonder how cool this would look in colored demonstrator finishes...
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
2) Since the newly introduced colorways for the MZ Grande 2020 collection focused strongly on bright and colorful materials (with the 'Primary Manipulation' collaborations with Jonathon Brooks being a highlight for many people!)... a more muted, simple, black pen was still missing from the lineup... 
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
3) As much as I like 'subtle' black pens, the Pura also comes in orange - YES PLEASE! Especially in the version with sleek, black-coated ruthenium trims and nib, this is a winner in my book.
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
Lastly, a translucent blue colorway completes the set. Although I'm obviously most drawn towards the black/grey and orange colors, the blue one is quite nice too. They make for a nice set, and I wouldn't be surprised if we'd see more experimenting with different colors in the future (what about a green or red Pura, or pink?) 

All Pura pens are finished with a satin-matte (sandblasted?) surface treatment. The finish feels smooth to the touch, almost soft, in a weirdly satisfying way. The frosted effect seems to be applied on both the outside and inside of the pen, for a consistent look across the entire pen. As with any matte finish, I do expect these pens to gradually become shinier with long-term use, so 'buyer beware' if you're not a fan of wabi-sabi.
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
The Pura pens also offers quite a bit of variety in terms of trim options. Of course, there are the usual rhodium and gold-plated options, but you can also go for black ruthenium trims for an ultra-sleek look, which is a first on the Momento Zero Grande. As I already mentioned, I really like the combo of orange+ruthenium, but also on the black version, it looks really cool. 

Because the pens are completely translucent, the trim option strongly impacts the overall looks of the Pura. The rhodium trims accentuate the color of the acrylic, while the black trims make it appear more muted and darker overall. The gold trims, on the other hand, emphasize the classic Italian design elements on - what I think is - a predominantly modern-looking set of pens. 
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
The translucent acrylics offer a somewhat rare opportunity to see the innards of the Momento Zero. In my review of the MZ Grande 2020 yesterday, I mentioned that having an ink window is not an option on the standard lineup... well this is your chance if you DO like to see approximately how much ink is left. 

Of course, the risk of a  translucent material is that it will also show the slightest imperfection or finish inconsistency. For the most part though, that's not really an issue, as the finish is consistent and even across the entire pen and construction seems precise. Though if you're really picky, a few areas inside the cap show light machining marks, and around the three cap rings (which are glued in place) the glue is ever-so-slightly visible.
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN
I think the Leonardo Momento Zero Pura offers a nice change from the usual multi-colored, complex acrylics that Leonardo uses for most of their pens. The monotone, demonstrator aesthetic is a nice change of pace, and especially the black demonstrator offers something for those that want a more subdued, business-appropriate pen. 

The Pura collection is bound to release soon. Going by previous pricing of other MZ Grande editions, I expect the MZ Grande Pura to hit the same MSRP of 295€/ 295$ without VAT (at Site Sponsor Casa Della Stilografica, use discount code 'Firenze' for 10% off!). The Pura collection will be part of the standard offering for at least the course of 2021.

NOTE: I received a discount on the purchase of this product by Leonardo Officina Italiana, 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.
QUICK LOOK: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE PURA FOUNTAIN PEN