Friday, August 7, 2020

REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
Back in 2016, Namisu launched the Nova. A pen that caused a short circuit somewhere in my brain I guess, because it was this pen that marked the beginning of my love for minimal design, metal fountain pens. Well, it actually took me about half a year to catch up to this relatively unknown -at that point- trend, because I didn’t buy a Nova straight away. 

The Namisu Nova Studio Ebonite (reviewed HERE) that I bought a while later - while not a metal pen - was my gateway into the brilliantly simple (Nakaya-like) shape of the Nova - to this day one of my favorite pen designs on the market. The Studio Ebonite also turned out to be the foundation for the pen we'll look at today, which is the latest iteration of the nova: The Namisu Nova Studio
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
The original Nova featured an ultra-minimal design, an exercise in clean lines, without unnecessary features or parts. Namisu turned to a bit more experimental and complex - but still minimal - designs after that, with combinations of different textures, metals, and shapes. The latest Naos (reviewed HERE) - another excellent pen - is probably the best example of this style. It seems to be the general direction they're trying to go in with their brand, and I think it fits their overall futuristic design language quite well. 
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
With minimal design, it's the small details that matter. And one of the small details that the Naos, Ixion, and Studio Ebonite all have in common is their coin-insert finials (ok, the Naos only has one on the barrel finial, but still). This is also what sets the Nova Studio apart from the regular Nova: it's all about those finials!

While an absolute design purist may find the separate finials on the Studio break up the clean lines, and distract from the ultra-minimalist, clutter-free look of the 'original' Namisu Nova, I think the finial design adds an understated but cool update to an already understated and cool pen. It makes the Nova appear a bit more refined - a bit more modern, even.
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
In essence that's about it, though. You can skip through the rest of this review if you just catch this: the Studio has coin insert finials, on which the Namisu - Studio name is engraved in a very small and subtle font. That’s the gist of it. I mean, of course, it’s still a Nova after all, the rest of the design is pretty much identical. 

Pretty much identical... But you know me, I'm the kind of person to ramble without end about the small stuff, so here are the other things that changed:
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
The bronze Studio (top) has a reddish hue almost like copper, both get a heavy patina over time.
The Nova Studio comes in titanium or bronze, with bronze replacing the usual brass or copper variants. Bronze seems to be all the hype these days in metal pen-land. It has the same heft as brass and copper, but the color is somewhere in between those two (leaning more towards the red hue of copper). The bronze studio has a lightly stonewashed finish on the cap and barrel, which contrasts with the polished cap and barrel finials. Under the cap, the section has a brushed/machined finish, which also has a bit more shine to it.

The titanium version of the Studio, on the other hand, has a more uniform brushed/machined finish on all parts of the pen, including the finials. It makes for a sleeker-looking pen, not in the least because the stonewashed bronze Studio gets a very dark brown patina over time, while the titanium pen retains its shiny, clean look.
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Ensso Piuma, Namisu Horizon Ti, Namisu Naos, Namisu Nova, Namisu Nova Studio (bronze & Ti), Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
While the Nova Studio is still very much recognizable in terms of the general design and shape, its size hasn't remained completely unchanged. The Studio version is ever-so-slightly less tapered towards the barrel finial. It's a minute difference - we're talking less than half a mm (1/50th of an inch) thicker! - yet it's enough to give the pen a more robust appearance in my opinion. The Nova Studio also measures 14.1 cm (5.55") capped and 13 cm (5.12") uncapped, which is overall just 2mm (1/16th of an inch!) longer than the regular Nova. The changes are so subtle, you can see the difference when putting both pens side by side, but it's hardly noticeable when writing with them.

The Studio is also heavier. I wanted to write that it's noticeably heavier than the regular Nova, but to be honest I only found out when I actually weighed the pens! I guess I've grown so accustomed to heavier metal pens, I was surprised to see the bronze Studio tip the scales at 106g, and even the titanium version could be considered a true heavyweight at 55g (that makes them both about 10 to 15g heavier than their respective Nova counterparts!). It's not often that even a titanium pen weighs over 50 grams, so take that as a word of caution if you're not a fan of heavy metal...pens!

Since the Nova and Nova Studio aren't quite the same anyway, I'm a bit curious as to why Namisu didn't change up the overall shape and dimensions of the Studio more drastically, to clearly differentiate it. Although why change something that isn't broken, right?
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
New threads on the left, old on the right.
The section design has always been an area where the Nova still has room for improvement, yet it remained unchanged on this iteration. Ok, not entirely. Just like the rest of the pen, the section is about a millimeter or so longer, but again that's not the kind of change you'll actually notice in use. The straight, tapered section offers enough space to hold the pen, but you'd be hard-pressed to not at least brush up against the threads and the rather large step towards the barrel. In fact, comfort might've actually taken a slight step back as they redesigned the shape of the block threads on the Studio for some reason, which no longer has chamfered edges, making them noticeably sharper to the touch. I was surprised to see that since there isn't a single sharp or unfinished edge to be found on the rest of the pen.

While I aesthetically find the Namisu Nova one of the most pleasing pen designs out there (at least when looking solely at minimal designs), it does make a few compromises for the sake of minimalism. Especially the threads and step are possible downsides to take into consideration when making a purchase decision.
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
The writing end of the Studio is of course still a steel or titanium Bock-made #6 nib. While not perfect, I do feel like I've had a noticeably higher success rate with stock Bock nibs recently (I don't know if that's because the QC improved, or just pure luck on my part). The nibs on these two pens are both very close to perfectly tuned. 

The broad nib on the bronze pen is my favorite. It has a slightly stub-like line variation and is perfectly smooth. The medium-wet ink flow keeps up well. As broad nibs tend to be, it does have a slightly more noticeable sweet spot if rotated. It occasionally hard starts - though briefly, only on the first pen stroke after sitting unused for a while - but otherwise doesn't skip.
REVIEW: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN
Some people have had enough of the 'minimal pen' trend of the last few years. Not me though. I can still very much get excited about a good minimal pen, and I'd certainly categorize the new Namisu Nova Studio as good. Aesthetically, I still think the Namisu Nova is one of the best designs in its category. If you agree with me and - just like me - are a bit of a fan of the Nova, the Nova Studio might be a welcome addition to your collection. The design is a nice evolution from the regular model, and I like that that they made a bronze version to change things up a bit. I don't consider it as an upgrade necessarily, it still very much looks and feels like the pen it's based on. 

That being said, no matter how positive my ramble about the design may be, these are very heavy pens, and the section design won't play nice with every grip. Two caveats that prevent me from calling it a great pen. Whether or not they're a dealbreaker for you, is of course highly subjective.  

The Namisu Nova Studio Bronze and titanium have an MSRP of 79£ and 110£ (approx. 105$ and 145$) respectively, but Namisu often runs sales so you can usually find them for less (at the time of writing, both are available at 15% off). That's slightly more expensive than the regular Namisu Nova, but in my mind still a very fair price point.

One of the products shown in this review was sent to me by Namisu 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: NAMISU NOVA STUDIO FOUNTAIN PEN

Sunday, August 2, 2020

PEN CASE REVIEW: LOCHBY TOOL ROLL

I'll let you in on a little secret: together with the Field Journal that I reviewed a couple months ago (HERE), the relatively 'new' brand Lochby (previously known as BOND Travel Gear) gets a perfect two for two score with the Lochby Tool Roll. The latter obviously being the topic of today's review.

Even though I previously admitted that the ruggedized EDC styling of Lochby's products isn't immediately my first pick, there's just too much to like about their products. Let me elaborate...
The Tool Roll starts on the outside with very similar styling as the Field Journal: brown waxed canvas, reinforced stitched edges, and a massive metal hook to keep it securely closed. On the inside, I'm happy to see the honeycomb-stitched, warm yellow ripstop fabric make its return. I really appreciate the color scheme and the way it's laid out on all Lochby products, keeping with an overall very work-appropriate look on the outside, but a bit more festive inside. BTW, Lochby also introduced a new colorway for its entire product line recently: a super-sleek black outside, with a strongly contrasting sand-colored interior - it looks amazing! 
Besides the attention to detail for aesthetics, Lochby's products are also excellently put-together, with neat stitching all around. The rugged fabrics give a durable impression. I've been using both the Tool Roll and Field Journal extensively for the past six months, and they both still look like new!

With a history in more EDC-minded products, it makes sense that Lochby named this product the Tool Roll. Even though the rebranding to Lochby is supposed to be more focused on writing accessories, the 'Tool' roll isn't just meant to carry around pens. The multi-purpose functionality reflects in the many different pockets and elastic loops on the inside. There's a lot of space to put a wide variety of pens, artist's supplies, tools, etc. 
Extra-wide elastic loops hold pens and other tools neatly in place
The four smaller elastic loops on the left are ideally sized for pens, three slightly wider slots are perfect for oversized and very wide pens (the Opus 88 Omar, for example). Only the two extra-wide slots in the middle aren't necessarily meant for pens (although, if you don't mind, two pens can cozy up in a single slot for sure). For a more EDC-minded kit, those middle slots fit a multitool without issues (In the images I used a smaller Leatherman Squirt, but it also comfortably fits a full-size Leatherman or Swiss army knife). One thing that doesn't fit is an unsharpened (or relatively new) Blackwing pencil It's nice to have a lot of options, but I'd like to see the option for a roll with 12 (or maybe 11, with three of the medium-sized loops like the ones on the far right in this case) slots, dedicated to carrying pens.
But wait, there's more! Cleverly hidden behind the pen loops, are three wide pockets that run the entire height of the case. It's the perfect size for a pocket notebook, or even a smartphone or something else that's larger but relatively thin. One downside: there are three pockets so you could technically fit three notebooks, but that does make it borderline impossible to properly wrap the case closed without bending the notebooks too much (one or two notebooks works just fine though).
And lastly, to the left of the 'main compartment' there's also a zippered mesh pouch to store small paraphernalia (I put an eraser in it, but I'm sure you can think of more exciting ways to put it to good use!). It can even hold additional pens if you really want to get the most out of your case
The Tool roll measures 20 by 40 cm (8” x 16”) when opened up, and it comfortably takes pens or other 'tools' up to 16 or 17 cm in length (6.7"). That's plenty of room for even the largest pens. Rolled up, it's more or less a cylinder that measures 10 by 20 cm (3.93" x 7.78").
Together with the wide elastic loops, the protective flaps on top and bottom cover almost the entire pens, so they have little opportunity to bump into each other. The flaps can be folded over and tucked underneath so you can display your pens while the case is on a table or something. 
Sorry Blackwing, you'll have to go!
The case holds closed by the metal clasp, that can be attached to one of four loops. The clasp itself can also be tightened or loosened on its own strap, so together that gives plenty of adjustment to choose if you want to keep the case slim and compact, or packed to the brim. Filled with pens, it does bulk up considerably, like a well-stuffed burrito (yes, that's the analogue I'm going with).
Now, one remark I have with pen roll cases in general, is that they tend to be less padded (The Lochby Tool Roll isn't padded at all), and less protective than a hard case with individual slots. I'm not the kind of person to put super-expensive pens in this kind of case and throw it in my backpack. But... that's just me and my obsessive OCD of course, because you definitely could. 

While it may not be the most protective pen case option out there, it does offer decent protection at a more compact footprint (Compared to a Dreamtouch case from Visconti with a similar 12-pen capacity, this certainly offers an easier form factor to put in a bag or backpack). I do like the Tool Roll for a more casual everyday carry for work or travel, which of course brings us back full-circle to the concept this case was built for - EDC. I guess that's a sign of thoughtful design!
Thoughtful design or not, obviously price is an important decisive factor in making a purchase decision. If this was in the same price range as more 'premium' and protective leather case from Franklin-Christoph or Visconti, it wouldn't be much of a choice. BUT, the Lochby Tool Roll is only 39$, undercutting even the most affordable options from competing products that can hold a similar amount of pens! I must say, it's quite hard to beat at a price like that.

NOTE: This product was provided by Lochby, 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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
Remember the Kaweco Supra brass (review HERE)? It was such a refreshing new product when it launched back in 2016. (yes, that was four years ago!) I think it was generally quite a well-conceived pen, there certainly was a bit of a hype surrounding it for a while (I don't think I exaggerate when I say Kaweco as a whole was a hype brand at that time!).

Back then, I naturally expected Kaweco to follow the same business strategy as with their uber-popular Sport and Lilliput pens: bring out new versions and special editions on a semi-regular basis to keep the product line fresh and relevant, and the customer's interest peaked.
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
But they didn't. Total radio silence about the Supra.

Four years went by, and just this year - when I thought all hope for a successor was lost - they decided to release the next installment in the Supra product line: the Kaweco Supra stainless steel. In my irrelevant opinion, that's about three years too late though. I feel like people lost interest, and maybe even forgot about the Supra altogether. 'Out of sight, out of mind' certainly applies here.
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
That's unfortunate because the Supra was is a cleverly designed, cool, well-built chameleon of a pen! Chameleon, obviously, because this pen adapts to the kind of use you want to get out of it. It shines as a pocket pen when the extension piece is removed, creating a pen that's a good bit shorter and even a bit thinner than the Kaweco Sport while still packing a full-sized writing experience and a #6 nib (So far, that's something only this pen and the Schon DSGN Pocket 6 are able to say).

I personally use the Supra with the extension piece in place about 80% of the time. I really like the looks of the Lilliput, but find the form factor just a bit too compact for a comfortable everyday writer. The Supra offers the same, pill-shaped, simple (I want to say 'minimal' but I already overuse that term to death) design as the Lilliput, but with a more normal footprint that I find more enjoyable to use.
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
The addition of a stainless steel version should make a lot of people very happy since it offers the same hefty feel without the smell that brass and copper give off. From an aesthetic point of view, it's interesting how the all-stainless steel construction gives the Supra a clinically clean appearance, much more modern-looking than the brass Supra and its vintage-esque patina.
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Ensso Piuma, Kaweco Sport, Lilliput, Supra Brass, Supra stainless steel (with extension), Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The more 'normal' footprint of the Supra equates to what's still, for all intents and purposes, a mid-sized to smaller pen. Especially capped, at just 13 cm (5.11"), it's comparatively short alongside a true average pen, like the Lamy 2000 or Safari (which have become somewhat of a 'sizing standard' in my reviews). Uncapped, it retains most of its length though, so at 12.5 cm (4.92") it still hits that sweet spot of a comfortable size without needing to post. Obviously, these are all measurements with the extension piece in place.
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
With both the extension in place, and the cap posted, the supra is really quite a long pen.
Without it, the Supra shrinks about 2.5 to 3 cm in length, making it effectively as long as the Lilliput. The extra girth of the Supra is the biggest contributor to making this pen feel more like a normal-sized pen.

Even though I prefer to hold the girthier Supra over the Lilliput, in absolute terms, comfort has never been the Supra's strong suit. The threads are cut deeply and have surprisingly sharp edges. Without the extension piece, the barrel has an almost imperceivable step behind the threads, but with the extension piece (which is wider than the barrel) in place, you do get a noticeable step right behind the threads. The section - while nicely concave-shaped - is short, so your grip automatically rests right on those sharp edges. I'm not typically one to complain about threads or steps, but in this case, there's definitely room for improvement.
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
It sort of speaks for itself, but the construction of the Supra is actually a lot beefier than that of the Lilliput. All parts are machined substantially thicker, and therefore a lot heavier as well (50g total). The machining is clean and precise, bringing the overall build quality to a very high standard. It looks and feels like a precision but also heavy-duty tool, ideal for in an EDC kit.

The Supra can technically take a full-sized converter (however, only with the extension piece in place!), but I continue to find myself using syringe-filled cartridges, just like I did in my original review. It's just a better trade-off than having to switch between converter and cartridge every time you want to add or remove the extension piece, and it's not like you get more ink capacity out of a converter anyway.
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
If you've recently read the Pen Addict's review of this exact pen, you'll notice that my writing experience was quite different from his. I did adjust the F steel nib a bit upon arrival, out of the box it was a bit too dry for my liking. A few passes with a brass shim increased the flow to a more balanced level that I was happy with. Other than that, the fine steel (Bock) nib has been an excellent writer that's perfectly polished -not too smooth, but still very little feedback- and responsive. I also found that, contrary to Brad's findings and my experience with a great deal of Bock nibs I own, it's a fairly stiff nib, although I don't really have a strong preference for one or the other.

At the end of the day, I've had a positive writing experience with this particular pen, but nib performance is, and always will be a case-per-case unknown. Maybe I got lucky and Brad didn't? Or maybe my writing style is better suited for Bock nibs? There's a lot of variables.

PS: I wanted to write that I feel like there should be a slip-on clip available for the Supra, even if it was just to prevent it from rolling off your desk - but it turns out they already make one! Only available in bronze though, but it's better than nothing.
REVIEW: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN
I don't know if the Supra is a best-seller for Kaweco (probably not, with the fierce competition of their own Sport pens!) or even if it ever has been a popular model at all. But I can't stop wondering what it would've been like if they had updated it more steadily over the years. In any case, I hope they don't forget about it again, and maybe come up with a titanium or aluminium version in the not-too-distant future.

The Kaweco Supra is different, and even after four years I continue to like it simply because of that. True, it may not be my first pick for long, comfortable writing sessions, and the ability to swap between a full-sized and pocket pen on the go might be a gimmick to some people. But it does do a lot of other things very right: It's a fun design, the modularity can actually be practical for the right person, build quality is rock-solid (excellent for EDC?), and it still comes in at a relatively decent price: 110€ / 135$ for this new stainless steel version.

NOTE: This product was provided by Kaweco, 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: KAWECO SUPRA STAINLESS STEEL FOUNTAIN PEN