Friday, May 21, 2021

REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
No matter how many Opus 88 pens go through my hands, time and time again I'm impressed with their fun designs and impeccable quality! I particularly enjoy seeing their demonstrator models whenever they come up with a new model, those always inevitably pop up, though sometimes only after a while. 

In the case of the Opus 88 Jazz, it took them a short while to move on from the translucent tortoiseshell acrylics they first released this model in, but they did make up for the lost time by immediately releasing two demonstrator versions instead of one: The Opus 88 Jazz 'Clear', and the frosted Jazz 'Holiday Clear'! My thanks go out to Opus 88 for sending me both pens to check out!
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The Design of the Jazz is possibly one of the most 'classic' approaches to a fountain pen that we've seen from Opus, yet. It takes after traditional cigar-shaped pens, with a slightly tapered bulbous shape and large rounded finials. In fact, it has some likeness to the Penlux Masterpiece Grande I reviewed not too long ago (HERE)

The Jazz features a bit more ornamental trims than you typically find on an Opus pen, with a decorative band on the cap, above the clip (separate from the ring that actually connects the clip to the cap) and above the blind cap. 
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The rounded center band is a new addition for Opus 88, and its minimal logo engraving perhaps looks a bit empty on the standard opaque colorways of the Jazz - but it does match to the clean look of the demonstrator versions, I find. The teardrop-shaped clip with knurled sides makes its return from one of the first pens that kicked things off for Opus, the Koloro. 
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
I firmly expected Opus to follow their current trend of releasing demonstrator pens with matte black trims, but the Jazz is the exception to that rule, with standard silver-colored trims. This once again adds to the more classic design of the Jazz, and it's not a bad choice IMHO, if not that it does make it the odd one out when put next to the Demonstrator and Omar Demonstrator.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The Jazz 'Holiday Clear', which is the frosted/matte version of the Jazz demonstrator (I don't quite understand the reasoning behind the name?) gets ruthenium-colored trims - though polished, so still not quite like the matte black trims of the other Demonstrator pens. All demonstrator pens from Opus already come with frosted innards, though the addition of a matte finish on the outside gives the Holiday an even more uniform and opaque look, contrasting strongly with the polished, dark trims. Of course, the biggest difference is how the Holiday Jazz FEELS in the hand, the soft matte surface texture sets it apart completely from the other versions. The matte finish is quite uniform across the entire pen, living up to the excellent construction standards of Opus, once more.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Pura, Penlux Masterpiece Grande, Opus 88 Omar, Demonstrator, Jazz, Montblanc 149, Pelikan M805, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
It's no secret that Opus 88 likes to create large -very large-, oversized pens, so it'll come to no surprise that the Jazz is also a very big pen. Though, even besides the already large Demonstrator and Omar, the Jazz is still a decent bit longer. Strangely though, because of the more streamlined design, it doesn't feel too big (though of course that boils down to personal preference!).

At 15.1 cm/ 5.95", it's unapologetically oversized, though, that's more or less a given with Opus. Without the cap, you're left with a pen that's 13.3 cm/ 5.24" long, which is more than comfortable for even a large hand. If you're feeling adventurous, you could still post the cap, though it doesn't post awfully deep so you'll end up with a ridiculously long pen! At 28 grams, the Jazz is surprisingly quite a bit lighter than the smaller Opus 88 Omar. 
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Opus 88 Demonstrator, Omar, Jazz
The section design of the Jazz is again (almost) identical to those on a lot of their other pens: a decently sized section with a nicely pinched taper that transitions smoothly into the threads. There's a bit of a step behind the threads and it can be quite sharp depending on how you hold the pen, a bit unfortunate on an otherwise very comfortable pen!
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The barrel size of the Jazz is visibly shorter than the Demonstrator and Omar
Interestingly, despite the Jazz being the largest of the three, it still loses to the Demonstrator and Omar when it comes to ink capacity. You can actually see that the barrel part of the Jazz is noticeably shorter, likely due to the proportions of the pen. 
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
Now admittedly, 3 mL is hardly anything to scoff at, but it is indeed less than the 3.5mL of the other two models. The Japanese eyedropper filling mechanism continues to be a fantastic trade-off between huge ink capacity, while still keeping a practical advantage over traditional eyedroppers.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
Compared to the last Opus 88 pen I reviewed -the Opus 88 Flow-, the Jazz returns to the camp of JoWo for the nib choice (in fact, all demonstrator models so far have exclusively used JoWo nibs). An excellent nib choice that also implies that this pen should be suited for conversion to a Pilot parallel nib (a fun feature I've discussed extensively in my review of the Omar). The broad nib I tested on the Jazz Clear worked flawlessly out of the box, and pairs great with the large ink capacity Japanese eyedropper.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN
The Opus 88 Jazz takes all the elements that I've liked before -and continue to like- about Opus' oversized, demonstrator, Japanese eyedropper-filled fountain pens, and crams it into a design that's actually remarkably traditional and 'normal' (for their doing). Their interpretation of a classic cigar-shaped fountain pen works well, even though it's not quite as eye-catching as the more unique styles of the Omar, Flow, or Bela. It's an inoffensive design and it works especially well in these two clear demonstrator finishes. As always, one of the main reasons of appeal for me continues to be the competitive pricing of Opus pens: for 108€/ 104$ (at site sponsor Appelboom, use discount code 'friend' for 10% off!), you really do get a whole lot of pen for your money!

Note: This product was sent by Opus 88, 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.
REVIEW: OPUS 88 JAZZ DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK

PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
Tomoe River notebooks are omnipresent these days, offered by various brands in many different styles. With good reason of course, as everyone wants a piece of the Japanese wonder paper to get the absolute best out of their fountain pens! Turkish stationery and leather goods company, Galen Leather, jumped on the Tomoe River wagon quite a while ago with their collection of 'Everyday Books': a selection of thin softcover notebooks and notepads in various sizes. But also these stunning, leather-bound, full-sized journals...

The Galen Leather "Leather" notebook is possibly one of the most luxurious, best-looking Tomoe River notebook I've seen to this day (and I have my fair share of them!). Whereas most brands go for a more utilitarian approach with thin, textured plastic softcover designs, Galen plays their strength with a cover made from their signature 'Crazy Horse' leather! The leather ages gracefully and noticeably with use: bending the covers creates creases and scratches which highlight the color of the leather, adding a lot of character to your carry. 
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
While Japanese brands certainly know how to create a tight and clean binding, I think Galen does it just that little bit better (at least, going off of the two samples I was sent!). The binding with 25 small 'signatures' (8 pages bound together at a time) is almost identical to that of Japanese brands. It's very precisely stitched, yet feels a bit less tight perhaps. 
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
The notebook as a whole is very flexible...
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
...and lays flat perfectly!
The slightly more loose binding creates a spine that is more flexible and makes the notebook as a whole easier to lay flat or even fold over. I'm really impressed with the build quality of these notebooks. The corners are nicely rounded, the leather is trimmed cleanly,...
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
On the inside, you'll find 400 white pages of Tomoe River paper. That page count is slightly lower than with other brands (making for a notebook that's still considerably slim despite the leather cover), though arguably 400 pages is still an awful lot. Galen's notebooks are only available in blank, so there's no printing at all on the pages. Numbered pages would've been a nice-to-have perhaps, but it's a feature that's missing on most TR journals I've come across. 
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
The blank pages could be a dealbreaker for some, but Galen thought of that and made sure that you can still use their notebooks in a structured manner: buying a leather notebook gets you a rather complete package that includes two paper guide sheets with gridded and lined layouts. 
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
Also included: a leather blotter sheet and two guide sheets with grids and lines.
Especially with TR paper, guide sheets are easy enough to use, as the thin paper makes the grids easy to see. A leather blotter sheet is also included, which could be useful if you'd buy these notebooks for heavy EDC use, where you need to be able to close the book instantly - because of course, fast dry times are NOT the forte of Tomoe River paper!
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
What IS the forte of Tomoe River is of course its impeccable reception of fountain pen inks. At the tradeoff of dry times, TR renders colors vividly, with tons of shading, crisp outlines, and strong sheen. 
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK
There has been quite some recent debate about whether or not Tomoe River paper can still live up to its name after they changed production. Personally, I find the new paper stock behaves extremely close to the original (even side by side), so I don't think there's reason to panic. Though it did still prompt Galen to specifically verify that they are still using the 'old' paper stock for their notebooks (at least for now!) - so if you are panicking and looking to get your fix of the original stuff, here's your chance! 

With the Leather notebooks, Galen Leather manages to offer a slightly out-of-the-ordinary Tomoe River notebook, ideal for those that don't want to add a separate (and often bulky) leather cover to their EDC to make it look great. As always, Galen presents their excellent eye for detail with a  neatly crafted notebook that also comes with useful extras like the blotter and guide sheets. Compared to their own non-leather covered Tomoe River journals (21€/25$ for A5), these do demand a fairly considerable premium: 30€/36$ (A5), 24€/29$ (B6), 20€/26$ (A6). Though I think that's still a pretty reasonable price considering the great-looking product you get in return!

These products were sent to me by Galen Leather, 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.
PAPER REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER TOMOE RIVER NOTEBOOK

Thursday, April 15, 2021

REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN

After a ridiculously long detour through customs - to the point where it was 'lost' by Belgian post for four months - I finally have my hands on a pen from Taiwanese manufacturer Penlux - a brand that has slowly been making name for themselves, but they're still surprisingly difficult to come across in Europe. I was quite excited to check out Penlux's Masterpiece Grande, especially since Taiwan has a rather excellent track record in my book: brands like TWSBI, Opus 88, Ystudio,... they're doing quite excellent things over there! My thanks to Penlux for sending this pen over for review!
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN
At first sight, the design of the Penlux Masterpiece Grande shows a striking resemblance to the Montblanc Meisterstuck (Meisterstuck = Masterpiece!) 149 (reviewed HERE). Though the longer I looked at it, the more I found it to be closer related to Italian design language, with the rolling-ball clip (a very sturdy and practical one, I must add), a rather eccentric center cap band (more on that later), and a wide variety of colorful and original acrylics to choose from.

Yes, in shape and overall dimensions, it does lean somewhat close to the 149. But putting those two pens side by side, you do notice that the Masterpiece has a less pronounced 'bulbous' and tapered shape like the MB 149, going instead for a more torpedo-like shape and more rounded cap and barrel finials. There's also a rather large decorative ring at the piston knob, which hides away a small step from the barrel to the piston knob.
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN
Coming back to the cap band, this is without a doubt the centerpiece of attention on this pen. Not only because of how it looks but also the way it coincides with a rather extreme 'break' between the cap and barrel. It's a single, wide, band with knurling along the top and bottom edges, and the word "PENLUX" engraved in between. The center band could be categorized as gaudy, but I personally quite like the looks and the texture of the knurling. Interesting about the abrupt step towards the barrel is that a few specific colorways (black and blue swirl) have a slightly different cap design with an additional acrylic ring that tapers down towards the barrel - it would've been nice if they continued that design in all versions of the Masterpiece Grande.
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: TWSBI Diamond 580, Opus 88 Omar, Leonardo MZ Grande, Montblanc 149, Penlux Masterpiece Grande, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
The Masterpiece Grande's torpedo shape has quite a strong resemblance to Montblanc's 149, and as the 'Grande' in the name suggests, it's no less statuesque in size, compared to the MB - quite the contrary. The Masterpiece Grande measures 14.8 cm/ 5.85" capped, and retains a rather generous length when uncapped: 13.3 cm/ 5.24". Though its bulbous, torpedo shape is perhaps a bit less pronounced than that of the 149, it is still a considerably wide pen, especially at the cap (which is quite a bit wider than the barrel). The entire pen weighs about 33 grams, which is very comparable to alternative pens of a similar size.
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN
Uncapped, the Masterpiece Grande shows all the elements that make for a comfortable writer: The section has a slight taper to it, but retains an overall fairly wide diameter (about 12 mm/ 0.47" on average), providing a secure grip. The transition to the barrel is imperceptible, with only the threads maybe being slightly noticeable under your fingers. With its 13.3 cm uncapped, it's comfortable and plenty long in the hand - though you could post if that's what you want (I certainly never felt the need to do so). 

The 'Koi' material (available in blue or black) adds to the Masterpiece a fantastic flecked, semi-translucent acrylic material, which shows perfectly how precise the machining and finishing is, also on the inside (a consistency across many Taiwanese brands, I have found!). Talking about machining excellence: the Masterpiece Grande comes with an in-house-made, fully metal (aluminium) piston mechanism. The mechanism feels extremely solid, yet it's also smooth and cushioned to operate. Ink capacity is perhaps a bit disappointing for such a large pen though, coming in at just 0.9 mL.
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN
There's one interesting quirk about the piston mechanism, which is - as mentioned - machined out of aluminium. The rubber seal just covers the sides of the piston, against the inner walls of the barrel, but leaves the top of the aluminium piston rod exposed (as far as I can tell). Now, aluminium's naturally forming oxide layer offers quite capable protection against corrosion (contrary to steel, where the oxide layer doesn't protect the underlying metal, causing it to rust indefinitely). But in contact with liquids, that natural corrosion resistance is quite a bit less effective, especially with inks often having a pH outside the neutral(-ish) range (more acid or base)! 

How well the piston mechanism will stand the test of time, is something I can only take a guess at. I did see some discoloration of the white rubber seal (could be degradation due to surface contact with the aluminium parts) but haven't had any functional issues to speak of so far (mind you, I've had this pen inked non-stop for about 3 months at the time of writing!)
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN
The #6 Jowo nib is a standard-issue example from the German nib manufacturer. Aesthetically, the nib does look quite small on such an imposing pen, but it's not uncommon to see #6 nibs on really oversized pens these days (especially because the nib alone would probably double the cost!). Standard issue or not, JoWo of course makes excellent pieces of writing steel, and the Penlux Masterpiece Grande perfectly illustrates this with a buttery smooth medium that has a rather rich - but most importantly consistent - ink flow.
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN
The #6 nib on the Masterpiece Grande is small for such a large pen, as is illustrated by the Montblanc 149 - a smaller pen, yet with a much larger nib!
I think it's fair to say that with Penlux, another excellent name gets added to the growing list of quality Taiwanese brands to follow! The 192$ price tag (based on a handful of mostly US-based retailers, I didn't find any European retailers that stock Penlux - yet) of the Penlux Masterpiece Grande Koi - some of the other colorways come in a bit cheaper - gets you a well-rounded, flawlessly constructed pen, and another excellent option for those that like oversized pens.

Note: This product was provided by Penlux 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.
REVIEW: PENLUX MASTERPIECE GRANDE KOI FOUNTAIN PEN