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

Sunday, April 4, 2021

REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITIONS (2021)

REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
In the almost 8 years of existence of this website, I seem to have succeeded at - subconsciously - ignoring one of the most ubiquitous and widespread 'beginner' fountain pens on the planet: the Lamy Safari

Ok, I have done 'quick look' posts on some of the previous special editions throughout the years, but I've never actually made a complete and in-depth review about it. Despite that, the Lamy Safari has played an immense role in my pen journey throughout the years (and still does so today, as my father and I share a mutual hobby of collecting old special edition Safaris!), and it embodies a lot of what I seek in a true 'workhorse' pen. I guess, because it's so ubiquitous, the Safari is just a pen I've always taken for granted.

So today, while we take a look at 2021's Terracotta and Savannah special edition Lamy Safaris - two colors that immediately got me very excited! - I'll go a bit more in-depth on why I like this pen so much. Before we dive deeper into some of the details of the new Safari special editions, I'd like to thank sponsor of the blog, Penworld, for providing these pens for review!

REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
Unfortunately, EU customers don't get the same pretty packaging as the American and Asian regions (Why Lamy?), so enjoy this gratuitous detail shot of the cap finials instead!

Let's start at the beginning: the Safari is a textbook example of a love-it-or-hate-it design, but that's also what makes it so interesting. The Safari goes at the Bauhaus design with an extra dose of brutalism and modernism (strong Oscar Niemeyer vibes) added to the mix: pronounced flats and angles, exaggerated proportions,...

REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
... absurdly large 'paperclip' clip,
REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
... and in-your-face branding on the back of the barrel. And yet, somehow, there's something strangely attractive about it.
REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
The Safari has of course seen every single color of the rainbow over the years, but only two are true grail pens for the wintered Safari collector. Like so many Lamy Safari aficionados, my dad and I never found the two OG Lamy Safari colorways, Savannah and Terracotta (the two original colors released in 1980). To be honest, they may be a bit too grail-like, as prices for the original Savannah and Terracotta go insane on the second-hand market. That is, if you'd even find one for sale! Against all odds, Lamy seems to have actually listened to what the pen community wanted to see, so I'm VERY excited to see a re-release of the Savannah and Terracotta. Heck, for once they might really be listening, as we even saw rumors of a new colored 2000 (though I'll refrain from getting too excited about that just yet... they can still botch it like they did with the Bauhaus release!).

The argument you can hear left and right that this re-release will have a negative impact on the collectibility of the highly sought-after originals? I don't think so. True collectors will know how to spot the differences ('Germany' marking on the bottom, slightly different finial, etc), and the originals are so hard to find, I think this will just create even more awareness and demand to track those down...

In terms of how close the colors actually are to the originals? Well, I - unfortunately - don't own any of the originals, but from the few comparisons online, it seems that the Terracotta is quite spot-on, while the Savannah looks to be a touch less olive-green than the original (though in real life, it certainly looks olive-green to my eye). 
REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
The Safari is a medium-sized pen, fitting in perfectly with some of my other favorite starter pens, like the Pilot Metro, and TWSBI Eco. The Safari measures just shy of 14 cm/ 5.5" capped, and retains a comfortable size of 12.9 cm/ 5.1" when uncapped. It weighs just 17 grams in total, thanks to the all-plastic (ABS), injection-molded construction. The cap posts securely and rather deep (it covers the entire 'LAMY' logo), which - together with the light weight - makes this one of the more comfy pens to use posted.
REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
The section is nice and long, and transitions seamlessly (well, not seamless, but without a step... You get what I mean!) into the barrel. The diameter of the section is a bit tricky to translate into numbers, but it roughly tapers from 12 to 10 mm towards the nib. Talking about the section: just like the general design of the Safari, the section is quite controversial.

The pronounced triangular profile definitely favors a more 'traditional' tripod grip, so that's certainly something to keep in mind if you tend to hold your pen in a funky way. With my - fairly standard - grip, the Safari has always clicked very well. Even though shaped grips are typically regarded as a beginner feature, I still enjoy the controlled and precise grip it provides.
REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
The firm - but fairly quiet - snap cap, as well as the ink window through the barrel, are both useful features to have on a workhorse 'EDC' pen. Additionally, I find the Safari beats the AL-star (another controversial debate!) due to its sturdy and durable injection-molded ABS construction. Especially the matte finish on the Savannah and Terracotta (and many other Safari colorways), is particularly good at hiding signs of wear and tear, though they do become shinier over time! In contrast, I'm always a bit nervous about putting a dent or scratch in the thin aluminum construction of the AL-Star.
REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
Lamy nibs are well-known to provide a subtle amount of pencil-like feedback while you write, which I actually enjoy. They are very responsive, reliable nibs with a well-balanced ink flow. I especially enjoy the fine nibs, which lay down a nice medium-fine, crisp line of ink. In the grand scheme of things, Lamy's nibs aren't exceptional in any way, but they do what they have to do without hesitation, and they're easy and cheap to swap out, too. Certainly another reason why the Safari makes for a reliable workhorse pen!
REVIEW: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS
While I'm still a bit ashamed that it took me this long to do a full review of the Lamy Safari, I'm fairly confident that my general sentiment on them hasn't really changed in all those years. Ok, I may have found the last two years of the Safari special editions (the Pastel and Candy trio's) a bit lackluster, but the re-release of the iconic Terracotta and Savannah are a perfect way to reaffirm my love for the bold and playful - perhaps a bit fugly - workhorse of a pen that is the Lamy Safari. Yes, I think it still absolutely deserves its status as one of the best affordable fountain pens on the market.

The Safari Savannah and Terracotta comes in a choice of fountain pen, roller, and ballpoint, but not the mechanical pencil. In Europe, the special edition fountain pens retail for 20.9€ (at Site Sponsor Penworld, use discount code 'pencilcase' for 10% off!), which is about one euro more than the standard colorways. Overseas, the US price seems to be the same regardless of the color you choose, although you do pay more across the board, just under 30$.

Note: Penworld is a sponsor of this site. I received a discount on this purchase, which enabled me to 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: LAMY SAFARI SAVANNAH & TERRACOTTA SPECIAL EDITION (2021) FOUNTAIN PENS