Sunday, March 7, 2021

REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES

REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
Pen cases come in many shapes and forms. Not only to fit your personal style, but also to cater to your specific use case: Carry a single pen, or 10? Stay-at-home or writer on the go? Convenience and style, or portability? Especially in more recent years, Galen Leather has really put a lot of attention in catering to a wide audience with their pen cases and display boxes, churning out a boatload of new products in different sizes, shapes, and finishes, with almost 25 models currently available (and a few exciting novelties still to come!)! 

Particularly the 'classic' style of zippered pen cases with elastic loops are quite well-represented on Galen's website. I already reviewed one of them, the Galen Leather Zippered 10-pen case & A5 notebook holder, though that one served sort of a dual purpose between pen case and notebook folio. In this review, we'll have a closer look at the more traditional pen cases they offer, aimed solely at carrying pens: the Zippered 3-, and 10-slot pen casesOnce again, I'd like to thank the Galen team for sending over these  products for review!
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
There's a wide variety of sizes to choose from with Galen's Zippered pen cases, and the layout depends slightly on the size you go for. Regardless of size, the designs are all kept quite simple and clutter-free, with minimal branding on the backside. The main attraction is of course the wide variety of colored leathers you can choose from to match your style. I personally really like Galen's trademark 'Crazy Horse' leather (love the name!): smooth and soft leather with a pronounced distressed look that picks up a lovely patina with use. It gives the case a more casual look (as opposed to glossy or full-grain leather), and it's already scratched and scuffed out of the box, so you don't have to pamper it.
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
With the 3-pen case, you even get some spare room for business cards or, for example, a Galen Card Book
The smaller 3- and 5-pen cases (pictured here is the 3-pen version, but they both share a similar design) have all pens on one side, with room for some small loose papers or cards on the opposite side (the slightly larger 5-pen case even fits a Field Notes style pocket notebook!). 
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
The 3-pen case is made from a single, seamless piece of leather, which folds around the spine of the case on the long side. The way the case is assembled doesn't allow it to open up completely flat on its own, unfortunately. 
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
The larger 6- and 10-pen cases divide the pens across both sides. Interestingly, there's a soft microfiber divider on each side of the case, and they are attached from the top. The way they did the dividers looks a bit unusual and perhaps unnecessary to have one on both sides. Though you can fold them over quite easily, allowing you to display your pens without the dividers in the way. The zipper on the larger cases (an even more 'heavy-duty' metal one than on the smaller models) opens up further into the spine, allowing the case to lay flat without effort. 

As mentioned in my review of the 10-pen case & notebook folioGalen recently changed to a different type of elastic band for their pen cases. The new type of elastic is more supple and soft to the touch than the ones in some of the cases I have in my hands (these particular samples are from before the switch). That said, even the least soft 'old' elastic I've tried, still didn't cause scratches or scuffs on any of the pens I tested it with.
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
The single row of wide elastics does a good job keeping most pens securely in place (unless they're very thin). On the 3-pen and 5-pen cases, the elastics are put closer towards the top of the case, which is both more difficult to put pens in and take them out of the case, and also giving the pens more wiggle room to bump into each other. Preferably, I'd like to see them put the elastic in the middle, like on all their other cases.
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
Top to bottom: Galen Zippered 3-pen and 10-pen cases, Aston Leather 10-pen case, Visconti Dreamtouch 12-pen case
Both the 3- and 10-pen cases I tested are characterized by a particularly compact form factor. Especially the 10-pen case is tiny compared to alternatives with a similar capacity (such as the 12-pen Visconti Dreamtouch case, or Aston 10-pen case). The 3-pen case measures 15.5 cm/6.1" by 9 cm/ 3.5" (about the size of a modern smartphone) and is about 3 cm/ 1.2" thick when filled with pens. The 10-pen case is a bit taller and wider: 16.5 cm/ 6.5" by 13 cm/ 5.1". 
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
Top to bottom: Galen Zippered 3-pen and 10-pen cases, Aston Leather 10-pen caseVisconti Dreamtouch 12-pen case
The 10-pen case also bulks up considerably due to the double layer of pens, giving it a thickness somewhere between 3.5 and 4 cm/ 1.38-1.58", depending on the pens you put in it. 
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
The microfiber dividers on each side of the 10-pen case add some bulk as well. It sometimes takes some fiddling to tuck them in and close the case in one elegant motion (one divider would've probably been enough). The dividers don't always cover the bottom of your pens if you carry a lot of very bulky pens, though they do still effectively keep the two sides of pens separated and protected.
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
A 'balanced' loadout that fits without issues. Notice that I did put the clips slightly sideways, which helps to reduce the bulk.
As expected by their compact footprints, interior space in the Galen cases is used efficiently, though that doesn't mean you have to rule out larger pens. I would say these cases are ideal for mid-sized pens, but I was honestly quite surprised by how lenient these cases are towards large, even oversized pens. Montblanc 149? Fits no problem. Leonardo Momento Zero Grande? Tight squeeze, but even that still fits. 
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
Only three at a time of course, but all of these pens can fit!
The 3-pen case is slightly more cramped than the 10-pen variant, but in both cases you'll especially want to watch out with pens that are very wide, because the cases do bulk up rather quickly.
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
A 'balanced' loadout of larger and smaller pens, that fits without issues
Especially really oversized pens (like the Leonardo MZ Grande) do tend to hug up against the metal zipper, which feels like it could scratch pens, so you'll want to pay attention when putting pens in/ taking them out of the case. This is especially something to look out for with the smaller 3-pen case, because on the 10-pen case the dividers cover up the top side and make it easier to put pens in the case without scraping against the zipper.
REVIEW: GALEN LEATHER ZIPPERED 3 & 10 PEN CASES
Galen Leather is probably best known for their creative, unique 'niche' writing accessories, like the 10-pen case & A5 notebook folio, the Writing Box, or Writer's Medic Bag. But they also have you covered when you just need a functional, no-frills EDC pen case.

The range of Galen Leather zippered pen cases offers clutter-free designs in a variety of leather options. I was surprised to see that their compact form factor still manages to offer decent carrying capacity, even for larger pens. To sweeten the deal, their prices are also very competitive compared to other leather pen cases on the market: The Galen Leather Zippered 3-pen case retails for 33€/ 39$, while the larger Galen Leather Zippered 10-pen case goes for 49€/ 58$.

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.

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.