Monday, July 8, 2019

MONTBLANC'S INK CONUNDRUM?

Montblanc The Blue Palette inks
Montblanc recently released yet another new range of inks: Six shades of blue (although I wouldn't describe the Turquoise as blue, but that's besides the point!), aptly named: 'the Blue Palette'. I thought their range of writing fluids was hard enough to comprehend as it was, with seemingly a million different types of ink, all priced differently. Yet apparently the people over at Montblanc HQ in Hamburg were willing to go one step further. 

Montblanc definitely noticed the increasing attention to inks, because they seem to be more invested in bringing out new inks each year. At the same time, they also changed their ink pricing structure in recent years. It started out with a general price hike across the board -Which is fair enough, that's what all brands do every year or so- but I'm pretty certain somewhere along the road they somehow lost track of what they were doing.

When we break down Montblanc's ink catalog (I'll use the EU pricing from MB's own website for this post to keep it as simple as possible), the standard range of inks (the shoe-shaped bottles) slowly went up in price in the past few years. The standard range recently received an aesthetic overhaul, so they now come with a white box and label similar to how the 'Colour of the Year' (Golden Yellow, Lucky Orange,...) are packaged. They still come in the shoe-shaped 60ml bottles, but the new look also comes with a new price of 20.4, about 10% more than before the facelift. They renamed some colors and added a few new ones (like Manganese Orange or Pop Pink). Interestingly, a few 'old' bottles are still shown on MB's website, also at the new price. Although I assume those will all eventually be replaced and make way once retailers get through their current stock. For completeness' sake, there's also the two standard range permanent inks (60ml bottles) that go for 26.5. Which seems like a reasonable upcharge for a permanent ink.

On the other hand, the special editions (like the Writers editions, Patron of Arts, Great Characters and Ink of the Year) have seen a much more drastic price increase in the past years. I seem to recall they once cost roughly the same as the standard range (let's say they used to cost about 20), but for smaller 30ml bottles. Nowadays, the special edition inks come in larger 50ml bottles at almost double the cost. Ok, you get more for a higher price. That's not too unfair, but in the end the price/ml still went up.

Next up we have the 'Elixir' range. They aren't special editions, but I wouldn't exactly call them standard either. You don't see these very often, probably because they cost 60 per bottle! The scented ones go for 70. The price doesn't come from being a limited production, but rather this is Montblanc's premium range and they justify the cost because they are based on natural dyes. In itself, the idea of extracting dyes from nature instead of using synthetic derivatives is pretty cool. But at that price... yeah, no thanks Montblanc. 
Montblanc The Blue Palette inks
© Photos property of Montblanc
All of the above probably still made sense to you, but the new Blue Palette range will undoubtedly throw you off. It looks the same as the new standard range or Ink of the Year packaging, but they use the 30ml bottles from the old special edition inks. And here's the interesting part: from what I can tell they are part of the standard collection, yet at 25.4 they cost 25% more for a much smaller bottle. I received a few samples of this new range in Appelboom's latest Inxperiment and they are nice colors for sure, but their premium price certainly struck me as odd when I first saw them.
Montblanc Ink pricing table
In case I hadn't bored you to death with numbers yet, I went ahead and put all this information in a table where I calculated the price/ml for each ink. Of course, the price/ml of the Blue Palette inks is high, very high. It's almost three times as much as the standard range, and easily surpasses the special edition inks, slowly inching closer to the *overpriced* Elixir inks! 

Don't get me wrong, I love Montblanc inks, yet I couldn't help but wonder why a brand would want to make things so complicated? Montblanc being Montblanc, they probably have a perfectly clever explanation for this pricing maze. My guess it's a gentle nudge towards another price change. I wouldn't be surprised if the Blue Palette is actually MB dipping their toes into the waters to test if lower priced and smaller special edition bottles would appeal more to a wider audience - similar to the tiny Iroshizuku or Sailor bottles. 

Personally, I used to buy most of their special releases but stopped doing so after they changed to the more expensive 50ml bottles. Simply because I didn't feel like dropping 35 euros for every single new release. I'm pretty sure I'd be more tempted to buy special editions at 25 euros per bottle. Of course the absolute price/ml is quite outrageous, but relatively speaking the investment is more bearable and most people probably don't need large 50ml bottles of every single color anyway. 

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this! Would you rather pay less for a much smaller bottle, or get the best price-per-ml deal?

Appelboom is a sponsor of this blog. I received this product free of charge. I was in no way influenced in the making of this article, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This article does not contain affiliate links. Use of photo(s) property of Montblanc falls under fair dealing.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)

PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
If you feel like there haven't been nearly as many new posts and reviews here lately, you're absolutely right! I'm still unfortunately very much working my way through my (hopefully) last ever exam period. But last week, smack dab in the middle of my exams, there was an event that I simply couldn't pass up on: the first 'Dutch Pen Show' in Utrecht! So I got my priorities straight, crammed five days of studying into three, and went on a short trip to the Netherlands to catch a glimpse of this completely new pen show! (#priorities... because exams can wait, right?)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
The show was organised by two members of the dutch FPNL community, Chaïm and Christa. The show took place in a brand new hotel in Utrecht, which is a fairly centrally located city in the Netherlands.
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Joost from Appelboom was there and had brought along some dangerously good deals on his table. I kind of regret not picking up the Pineider honeycomb for half off! Oh well...
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
The peeps from Appelboom also brought a piece of Kaweco equipment with them for you to create your own custom Kaweco sport - Neat!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Appelboom's resident nibmeister Annabelle Hiller was seated right next to their table and had her fair share of work fixing dropped nibs and poor writers into marvellous nibbages!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
John Sorrowka preferred to stay anonymous, but I was allowed to fotograph the hands of the master. Splendid guy with an incredible wit, while also grinding a beast of a cursive italic on one of my Pelikan M800 nibs that I brought along! Believe it or not, this is my first-ever professional custom nib grind!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Another first encounter with penmaker John Twiss. Some amazing handmade beauties on his table, and very reasonably priced too (kinda regret passing up on one).
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
This Twiss pen caught my eye: striped acrylic cut and glued in a radial fashion so the stripes go all the way around the barrel. Very cool!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Armando Simoni Club (which is actually a collection of brands like Wahl-Eversharp, ASC, Molteni, Leonardo Officina Italiana and brought their A-game with the full array of Wahl-Eversharp Decobands, and the new ASC Bologna Extra Afrika. I may or may not have one of those Wahl-Eversharps coming to me in the near future...
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
The new ASC Bologna Extra Afrika. Very nice material, prettier in real life than I expected.
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Sarj was his ever-joyful self (how could you not be happy with this many pens, right?) He told me he had some back pains, but that's what you get when you bring about a dozen of suitcases full of pens Sarj! I was lucky to have some time to chat with him during a calmer moment. Sarj is such an incredibly friendly chap, even though I have never bought anything from him (My self-control is incredible!).
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Phoenix laquer art was also present at the show. What can I say? This brand is extra, everything about it is extra, down to the beautiful magnifying glass that you can use to drool over the amazing handpainted details of the pens I can probably never afford.
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Papier & Stift came over from Germany and brought ALL THE INKS. This poor chap had the impossible task of organising all of those (They brought the Sailor Ink Studio inks, so you just know he had a mental breakdown trying to organise those!).
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Then there were these two friendly looking peeps: Dennis and Rik from La Couronne Du Comte. They brought the usual great deals as well of course! Also got to see the new Pelikan Dunes blue: kinda meh about this special edition to be honest. My wallet thanks Pelikan for releasing too many blue special ed
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Had a nice chat with the people from Maxpens and for the first time in my life I was truly captivated by Montblanc pens. They had some truly amazing vintage and prototype Montblanc pens on display. Expensive as hell, but damn they were pretty!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Arco Montblancs, because why not!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
More handmade pens in the form of Corpus Woodworks. Not immediately my cup of tea to be honest, but damn impressive craftsmanship nonetheless!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Yunus of Galen Leather came all the way from Turkey, and brought a ton of their beautiful leathery goodness! Zeynep from Write To Me Often had come along to help manage the table. Both extremely friendly people and it was great meeting them in real life. My father bought the new 40-pen collector case, so I'll kindly loan it (hehe) and do a review of it very soon...
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Scrittura Elegante is doing a closeout sale of all their writing-related products. Great deals on inks and pens, definitely worth checking out if you're still looking for a good deal!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
And of course there were giveaways, lots of giveaways! Over 100 bottles of show-exclusive Robert Oster 'Nederland's Eerste' ink were graciously given away to visitors, and were personally handed out by Patrick from Robert Oster! This photo was taken over by the buy&sell table, where one could bring in pens to have on display and maybe make a few bucks. I made use of the service and think it's a brilliant idea. Didn't have to worry about the sales and made some money at the end of the day! Great initiative and undoubtedly a lot of work for show organizers Chaim and Christa! - Thanks for a great show guys! See you next year (Save the date: June 7th 2020)!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

REVIEW: TACTILE TURN GIST 2.0 FOUNTAIN PEN

Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Deadlines here, deadlines there... Sorry for the radio silence but it's been a little crazy the past few weeks, hence the lack of new reviews. Anyway, things are getting somewhat back to normal finally, so I it's about high time for another review, right?

I think it's no secret that I've become a fan of Tactile Turn products. FAST. It all started when I bought a titanium Gist fountain pen second hand from Mike at The Clicky Post. I had never been absolutely on board with the concept of the original Gist. It was designed to be a semi-pocket sized pen that needs to be posted to reach its full potential and I usually prefer full-sized pens. But the price was right, so I caved. As my prejudice often turns out wrong, the Gist managed to impress me, and I got a taste for more. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Not much later, Will at Tactile Turn delivered with the new and improved Gist 2.0. It's the same but different. The Gist grew up, and is no longer the pocket-ish pen that it used to be - much to my liking of course. I immediately ordered a couple (because ordering just one pen is for sane people), and Will graciously sent the other finishes along for me to check out - Thanks Will!
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Original version below, Gist 2.0 above
Designwise, all they did was quite literally stretch out the cap and barrel a bit. The overall shape and style is still the same quite Lamy 2000-esque, tapered flattop. In fact, put this (especially the black delrin version) next to a lamy 2000, and the resemblance is certainly there (there are of course worse pens to draw inspiration from, IMHO). The design is simple but not quite as minimal as metal pens can sometimes be (like my benchmarks, the Ensso Piuma and Namisu Nova). The Gist's design is accentuated by the unusual cap-to-barrel ratio. The cap is rather long, which gives the pen a balanced appearance.

Where the original came in a wide selection of material and combinations, version 2.0 has a less extensive selection to choose from, supposedly to keep production more straightforward. Materials like stainless steel, damascus and various mix-and-match combinations where dropped, but you still get a choice between white, black/white and black delrin, brass, copper and titanium. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
The original Gist certainly had some kinks that I'm glad to say were -quite literally- smoothed out in version 2. Most noticeable is Tactile Turn's trademark knurled finish. The original had a very deeply ridged texture which feels kind of strange and extremely 'toothy' in the hand. Version 2.0 incorporates the same fine spiral texture as all other current TT products, which feels less sharp yet still offers plenty of grip. Another element that you'll probably recognize from other Tactile Turn products is the sturdy stainless steel clip, which is available in both tumbled steel and black coated finish for the Gist.

My biggest gripe with the original Gist are the threads. They are very sharply cut, which especially on the edge of the cap made it to a point where you can actually cut yourself on them. The threads were also quite tricky to align, where they would often catch when you don't align the cap just right. Version two has this figured out; not only is the edge of the cap now nicely flat and no longer sharp, the threads itself are cut differently so that they don't catch nearly as often. The last difference I could tell is purely an aesthetic one, where they added more pronounced chamfered edges to the cap and barrel finial.
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
All in all, the Gist 2.0 just looks more finished and  thought through. And with these small quirks out of the picture, it's a more pleasant pen to use as well.

There still one issue that I could find though, and that's the inner cap. TT decided to add a small plastic ring inside the cap to aid with posting the cap (so you don't damage the finish on the metal pens), but it sometimes snags on the nib when you cap and uncap the pen. This seems to be a tolerance issue caused by some Bock nibs having slightly wider shoulders than others, making them snag on the inner cap. In any case, Will let me know that he updated the inner caps to deal with this variation, so it should no longer be an issue. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
L to R: Namisu Nova, Ensso Piuma, Tactile Turn Mover, Tactile Turn Gist and Gist 2.0, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
As I said, the Gist grew a bit compared to its predecessor, and is now a comfortable 13.7 cm long (5.4") when capped, and 12.5 cm (4.9") uncapped. It's still not an overly large pen, but I'd now consider it more of a normal sized pen. I can easily get away with using it unposted (even though you could post if you want), where I find the original Gist just a tad short for that. In terms of weight there's something for everyone: the delrin comes in just shy of 20 g, the titanium version is a substantial 45 g, and copper and brass are downright heavy at around 80 g each.
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Despite being a metal pen (well, unless you choose the delrin finish of course!), it scores high in the comfort department. The section is long, has a gentle taper and provides plenty of grip through the machined texture. The block threads sit almost completely flush in between the section and barrel. They are ever so slightly sharp to the touch, but never felt too intrusive in my grip.

The nibs are standard Bock issue, which is absolutely fine by me. I know there has been more than one occasion where Bock has missed the ball with quality control. Nevertheless, I still generally like them better than JoWo nibs, which I think has at least something to do with the slight springy character they offer (and the option for titanium nibs if you want something closer to semi-flex). For what it's worth, all four nibs I received worked perfectly fine out of the box. I was especially impressed by the 1.1 untipped stub, which I have had little experience with until now. It's a nicely rounded stub and comes very smooth out of the box, with a pleasantly wet ink flow. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
I do find that Bock nibs generally benefit from a wet ink, even though they usually provide a decent flow as-is. For example, I regularly pair them up with a KWZ ink, which provides a very heavy and smooth flow. Worth noting is that the Gist 2.0 now accepts full-sized converters which can hold a bit more ink. Admittedly, the difference in ink capacity isn't huge, but every improvement is welcome I'd say.

If you're not keen on fountain pens, TT now also offers the Gist as a capped rollerball pen, built around the same Pilot G2 refill that they use in all their pens. You can also buy the rollerball grip section separately for anywhere between 15$ and 35$ (depending on the material), so you can swap between writing styles. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
The Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 hits a lot of sweet spots for me, and from my experience it's a huge step forward from the original version. I think Will and his team generally do an excellent job on the design of their products, striking a good balance between minimal and industrial looks with a very tangible character -this pen is no different in that regard. Besides design, the Gist feels solidly built and comes in plenty of material options to choose from. Especially for people that don't like metal pens, the delrin versions are a very welcome option. 

The price point on these is a bit higher compared to the rest of Tactile Turn's products. Delrin versions start at 99$, brass and copper come in at 119$ and 139$ respectively, and the titanium version goes for 219$. For the most part, those prices are still very competitive with similar products from other brands out there. Only the titanium version seems a bit on the expensive side compared to the rest. Especially because TT usually offers their other titanium products for a relatively low price, I don't quite see how the titanium Gist in particular demands such a high premium.

NOTE: This product was provided in part by Tactile Turn, 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: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen