Thursday, September 24, 2020

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
Hey, I like minimal design. I'm all for it. But the thing is: minimal design is extremely unforgiving! The product has to be perfectly conceptualized, it has to be flawlessly executed. It has to give you that "Aha, I get it now!" moment, when you pick it up. That moment when you realize that it is so cleverly put together, it doesn't lack any of the features that are essential to making a good pen, but conversely has nothing excessive in the way of pure writing experience. Above all, I feel like minimal design should be hassle-free, maybe even soothing... I think you get the point.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the Venvstas Magna fountain pen, let me start off by saying the premise of this pen is absolutely promising. But a cool concept is only half the effort towards a great product, and unfortunately, there are a number of small - maybe seemingly unimportant, but they add up - pet peeves that distract from the overall experience you'd expect from a 250$ pen. Even Venvstas' own website, which I visited while researching for this review, was itself a bit of a pet peeve. It's riddled with conflicting and wrong information: no the ink capacity isn't 3.2 mL. Yes, the cap does actually post. And no, the 79€ carbon fiber carrying case isn't actually included with the pen (bummer!). Anyway, on to the pen!
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
I do enjoy the overall design of the Venvstas Magna. It's positively minimal, with a tubular, linear carbon fiber exterior. The different pieces of the pen are separated by slanted angles, which gives quite a departure from typical fountain pen designs. Through some compromises (which I'll address later), the monolithic shape is interrupted only by two tiny set screws in the section (which hold the internals of the pen together), a brass coin adorns the cap finial and has the Venvstas double-V logo on it, and a nondescript black cylinder that extends slightly from another angled cut at the back of the barrel.
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
The main 'structural element' if you will, the outer carbon fiber (CF) shell, is nicely made from tubes of extruded linear carbon fiber composite (the extrusion process aligns the carbon fibers all in the longitudinal direction of the tube - quite neat!). The slanted angles on the carbon fiber parts are cut quite clean and precise, and all the pieces received a nice hand-brushed finish that is smooth and soft to the touch. Despite the brushed finish - the comparison with the Lamy 2000 is hard NOT to make here - the carbon fiber pieces don't match up to create a 'seamless' look, although I don't know if that's what Venvstas was aiming for in the first place. 

In any case, I'd at least expect all parts to align properly, and that's where I hit a bit of a sore spot in the design of the Magna. Without going into too much detail, the way the steel 'guts' of the pen are connected to the CF section and the way the barrel attaches to that section, leaves wiggle room between all the parts. The nib assembly, but also the entire barrel (which only holds onto the steel inner mechanism) tends to shift/rattle around as a consequence.
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
Related to this, is that the barrel never really stays seated perfectly flush with the section. You could argue that that's a minor issue, but even the slightest misalignment is accentuated on a clean and straight design like this (see the image above, it's minor, and yet you can clearly see it's off!), and can be felt because the edges are rather sharp. 
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
Contrary to the barrel, the cap holds on to the CF part of the section with a single steel 'spring' insert and has a positively tight tolerance to it (the edges of the steel insert are really sharp, though). It aligns perfectly flush and secure each time, showing that it is indeed possible to get a better fit. 
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
What's even more, the cap is actually held in place tighter than the barrel, so when you accidentally hold the barrel and try to pull the cap off... you'll actually pull off the barrel. Yes, this is easily avoided by holding the pen only at the section when uncapping, yet I still - on multiple occasions - managed to pull the barrel off or slide it back enough to misalign it once again. If the barrel attached in the exact same way as the cap, it would not only be a more secure fit, but it'd also alleviate all of the aforementioned misalignment and wiggle issues I encountered.
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
It's like the big red cartoon button that says 'DON'T PRESS'...
My biggest gripe with the design is the fact that the back of the barrel is just open. Yes, there's a gaping hole in the back of this pen. The design of the back finial looks cool... until you realize that you're touching the piston's plunger and not just a fixed finial! About half a centimeter of the plunger is exposed through the back of the barrel, ready to be pressed by accident. Why create such a risk? There's potential for an inky mess around every corner: when you slide it into a pen case/pocket/bag, when you're fidgeting with the pen (let's admit it: we all do that unconsciously!), or when you post the cap (the steel spring also attaches the cap to the back of the barrel, but it can easily catch on the plunger and depress it about a centimeter).
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
Seeing that Venvstas' other, slightly smaller pen - the Venvstas Carbon T - has the same finial design but with an actual, fixed finial and not the piston plunger sticking out, I'd personally opt to decrease the ink capacity from the massive 2mL that it is now, shortening the piston mechanism and just putting the same fixed finial in the back as with the Carbon T. Problem solved, peace of mind restored!
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Ensso Piuma, Pelikan M1005, Conid Kingsize, Venvstas Magna, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Magna (Latin for 'large') is indeed a rather large pen. The diameter of the entire pen (12 mm/ 0.47") is quite normal I'd say, and sits comfortably in my hand. But with a length of 15.5 cm (6.1"), it's exceptionally long. Even uncapped, at 14.6 cm (5.74"), it's longer than most pens when capped! If that's still not enough for you, the cap can be posted (although as already mentioned, you run the risk of accidentally pushing the piston plunger) for a total length of 18 cm (7.08"). Needless to say, this pen is comfortably sized for pretty much any hand, and the mostly CF build keeps it comfortably lightweight (24g), too.
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
In terms of comfort, it's not at all a bad writer, but I found it remarkable how often I had to adjust my grip to not hold it right on the edge of the carbon fiber section. The nib sits recessed in a stainless steel tube (also cut at an angle, a nice touch!) that protrudes from the CF outer sleeve. 
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
The section starts further back than on a typical pen with a #6 nib...
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
...which interferes with my grip
But while the nib doesn't really extend that far out from the section, the angled cut on the bottom of the CF sleeve (where my middle finger rests) does run quite far back on the bottom of the section. That requires you to hold the pen further back relative to the nib, which takes some time to adjust to (and keep in mind that I already tend to hold my pens relatively far back anyway!).
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
Space-age looks!
The titanium nib (There's no coherent information about the nib supplier, but I assume it's Bock-made, despite it being paired with a feed that doesn't seem to be from Bock) has a clean appearance with very simple "V" branding in the middle - befitting of the overall minimal aesthetic of the pen. The nib on my test pen was excellent. A recent review from Anthony over at UK Fountain Pens pointed out different behavior, but my test pen wrote pretty much flawlessly out of the box. Ink flow is ample and consistent, the nib was properly tuned and aligned for a smooth writing experience, and the titanium nib provides a slightly cushioned writing experience.
REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN
The bottom line of the Venvstas leaves me wondering how much novel design is simply too much? As it stands, I feel like 249/ 240$ without VAT (from our site sponsor Appelboom) is not a terribly high price considering you get a piston-filled pen with titanium nib (a 14k gold nib version is available at a 150€ premium). And the out-of-the-box design is interesting for sure, but it seems like they made peace with a few too many structural compromises to stay true to that purist design ideology. Compromises that continuously distraught me from the joy that I should've experienced from a unique product like this, but instead left me frustrated most of the time.

Nonetheless, Venvstas being a relatively young brand, coming from a one-man operation (now being made by an industrial manufacturer, though), I think there's still plenty of opportunity for improvement. A lot of the issues are seemingly easy to fix, IF Venvstas perhaps dares to step away from the envisioned ideal design in favor of a few more functional details. And if they do, I'll gladly revisit my opinion.
Note: This product was sent on loan by our site sponsor Appelboom, 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: VENVSTAS MAGNA FOUNTAIN PEN

Sunday, September 20, 2020

REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
Together with the, quite well-known, Design 04 (review HERE), the Design 06 is probably one of the more popular pens that German manufacturer Otto Hutt makes - at least they are the first pens that come to my mind. But while the 04 is perhaps a rather particular design, probably not everyone's taste, the Design 06 seems more of a crowdpleaser. At least from my perspective, the 06 is about as inoffensive as pen design gets - I don't mean that in a negative way, it's just a very simple and elegant design. Maybe a bit more low-key, but very hard to knock. 
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
The 06 - again - shows off Otto Hutt's forte of combining a fairly classic overall design (a strongly tapered cigar-shaped profile with flat finials) with very modern, simplistic details and clean, minimal branding. 
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
Clip brothers!
Probably my favorite small design aspect that Otto Hutt gets right on many of their pens is their fantastically sturdy, spring-loaded clips - Yes, I am a stickler for clips, and this is once again an excellent one: it's extremely robust but still functional and it clips in pockets easily, all while still retaining a simple and minimal design. 
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
Especially in this black lacquer colorway, the Design 06 is a sleek and stylish pen with a certain 'ST Dupont-chic' flair (but more modern-looking than Dupont). It looks and feels more expensive than it really is, and would easily be suited for a formal or work environment. But again, Otto Hutt's balance between classic and modern design also shows in the available finishes: black with rhodium trim too boring? Pick one of the frosted colorways, or the rose gold or black PVD trims, and you instantly get a much more modern-looking pen.
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Pelikan M1005, M805, Otto Hutt Design 04, Design 06, Design 03, Design 07, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Design 06 is a smaller pen, no surprises there, with Otto Hutt leaning almost exclusively towards smaller pens in their current portfolio (even the flagship Design 07, that I reviewed HERE, is still not an extremely large pen!). The 06 measures 13.8 cm/ 5.43" closed, the strongly tapered design wastes a lot of space inside the cap because you're left with a pen that's just 12 cm/ 4.73" when you take the cap off. That's cutting it close for me, being quite a bit shorter than what I'd consider my personal sweet spot.

Luckily, the 06's section design has an interesting profile with a very strong pinched shape (from 11.3 mm/ 0.45" near the threads to 8.7 mm/ 0.34" at the narrowest point!), which effectively pulls your grip towards the front of the nib and - despite being 'slippery' metal - keeps your fingers in place quite well.  Another beneficial side-effect of holding the pen so close towards the nib is that you'll bypass the step, because yes...there's quite a step behind the threads (and it's noticeable when you grip right on it).  The all-metal construction makes for a rather hefty 46 gram total, again a given throughout Otto Hutt's product catalog. Uncapped, the weight sits nicely balanced in the hand. The cap can be posted securely (and rather deep onto the barrel), which makes for a heavy pen but doesn't make it extremely back-heavy like I feared it would. 
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
Comfort-wise, this is a very peculiar pen. A lot of elements that don't sound comfortable at first, come together into a design that's surprisingly decent for everyday writing. Would I call this the most comfortable pen ever created? Well, no, obviously, but it's actually not half bad, and I could certainly use it for longer writing sessions without any problems.
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
If the overengineered clip is anything of an indication of the overall build quality, you'll know that the Design 06 is a very well-made pen. The sturdy all-metal build means this pen can take a beating. Every part is well-polished, the black lacquered finish is spotless, no rough edges to be found. It really is an exceptionally solid writing instrument that just exudes quality, which is something I've found true for every Otto Hutt I've used so far.

Before we move on to the writing performance, the threads on this pen deserve a small word of praise. The Design 06 is, as far as I can remember, the only pen I've ever seen that uses quadruple-start threads! It takes just half a turn to unscrew the cap, which is insanely fast, and yet it still closes securely. It's a seemingly small feature, but it's certainly useful if you need to take notes quickly during class or in a meeting. 
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
The steel #5-sized nib continues my positive streak of excellent nibs with Otto Hutt, this makes for four pens in a row that have all been excellent writers in their own respect. I've actually come full circle in my reviews of Otto Hutt pens: from a simple steel nib on the Design 04, to the 18k gold on the Design 03 (review HERE), a larger #6 18k gold specimen on the Design 07, and now back to steel, with a fine nib this time around. The bicolor plating fits this pen well, with its classic look, and it's cool that they color-match the trims when you go for a rose-gold or black PVD finish. 
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
The fine nib is a wet writer and with that, lays down a line that runs closer to even some Western mediums. I'm pretty sure Otto Hutt uses JoWo nibs, and that's definitely noticeable in terms of having a reliable writing experience. It dries out ever-so-slightly after longer periods of time, but always manages to find its bearings after the first stroke, so that's ok. I remember in my review of the Design 04, I mentioned that it's hard to recommend going for the more expensive gold nib option, and I still think that holds true. Yes, Otto Hutt's gold nibs are excellent - maybe a touch smoother and softer than their steel counterparts - but the steel nibs are nothing to scoff at.
REVIEW: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN
The Otto Hutt Design 06 is a fairly unassuming pen. Where the 03, 04 and 07 are all a bit more different and unique, the 06 is understated and elegant, but still retains the extremely high build quality that I've seen on other Otto Hutt pens. While not the most comfortable pen in the world, the 06 still managed to exceed my expectations in terms of the overall writing experience, and of course you can be quite certain that the nibs will be excellent, steel or 18k.

I have a lot of positive things to say about the Design 06, so I'd say it offers very good value at 145€ MSRP from Otto Hutt's own online shop (It's in German, but Google's auto-translate does a pretty good job), although the price does creep up when moving into the matte colored finishes, and rose gold or black PVD trim options. The 110€ extra for a gold nib is certainly not a bad investment, but IMHO it's not necessary to get a great writing experience. 

NOTE: This product was provided by Otto Hutt, 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: OTTO HUTT DESIGN 06 FOUNTAIN PEN

Sunday, September 6, 2020

REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
It's funny how Montegrappa wasn't really on my radar much (if at all!) in the past years, yet as of late I find myself looking at almost all the new products they put out! Admittedly, the Montegrappa Elmo was probably at the bottom of my personal watchlist, but having it in hand now, thanks to Appelboom, it's undoubtedly a pen that's hard to miss... for obvious reasons!
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
The design of the Elmo gives me a vague Montblanc M (review HERE) vibe, which is not the kind of pen I want to be reminded of, to be honest. I think the resemblance in the overall shape of the Elmo and Montblanc M isn't too hard to see: a cigar-shaped pen that tapers lightly towards two perfectly round finials on top and bottom. The overall profile is quite streamlined, very uncluttered (not very Montegrappa-like?). In terms of looks, there's also a fair comparison to be made with the Esterbrook Estie (review HERE), in my opinion. 
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
As someone who's sometimes a bit unreasonably picky about clip designs, I like how the slender, concave shape of the Elmo's clip contrasts the slightly bulky appearance of the pen itself. 
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
Ok, to be honest, I find the 'regular' edition of the Elmo a tad bit boring. This particular 'Iris Yellow' colorway though - part of the 'Fantasy Bloom' collection - can hardly be called boring in its appearance. The mad combination of vibrant, pearlescent yellow, green, purple, and brown swirls is an absolute eyecatcher for sure - some sort of oddly intriguing, shimmery barf? Ok, that may not sound too enticing... Montegrappa dares to experiment with their materials, which is something I can certainly appreciate. Talking about experimental materials, I'm especially intrigued by the new Elmo Ambiente, made from recycled plastic packaging!
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Platinum #3776, Montegrappa MIA, Montegrappa Zero, Montegrappa Elmo, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Elmo is an average-sized pen, measuring 14.2 cm/ 5.6" closed, and 12.7 cm/ 5" uncapped. The section has a diameter just over 1 cm/ .40"  which is typically what I find a good sweet spot for me. The pen as a whole isn't too wide, especially compared to the more stubby MIA I reviewed a few weeks ago. The Elmo weighs 30 grams in total, which isn't anything out of the ordinary. But it does have a very apparent center of gravity, with a lot of weight coming from the metal threads on the barrel. It's not a heavy pen by any means, but you'll immediately notice the balance, which lies nicely in the middle of the pen. I quite like the way it balances in the hand. The cap can be posted but it's not as secure as I'd like.
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
Watch your step!
The cap has lovely threads - the Montegrappa-kind of smooth, which is really something they have down to a science over in Bassano Del Grappa! But the problem with the threads is that they don't hold the pen closed particularly securely. I think that's in part because there's no inner cap to provide a positive stop for the section to tighten up against. It's not a huge deal-breaker, but I found it apparent on this pen, whereas other Montegrappa's I've tried don't have the same issue.

The step behind the threads is SUBSTANTIAL. The section has a slightly concave profile, but not enough to really draw your grip closer towards the nib and away from the step. Luckily the threads are at least smooth and unobtrusive. That step is definitely a weak spot as far as comfort goes, and it's again eerily reminiscent of my experience with the Montblanc M.

The Elmo uses a standard international screw-in converter that is Montegrappa-branded - functional, but nothing particularly special. It has a coil agitator inside to keep the ink from sticking - which is nice - but I was surprised to see it started rusting already after the first fill - not so nice! 
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
One of the better nib designs around IMHO
Montegrappa switching to JoWo nibs has probably been their best decision in years because they're definitely a massive improvement in writing performance and consistency over the old nibs! If you like JoWo nibs, you'll like this nib. It's not a super-special steel nib, but at least you generally get a smooth and reliable writer. This B was a joy to write with, buttery smooth, very wet, and it lays down a properly wide line.
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
Certain things in life are still a given, and Montegrappa's premium pricing is one of those things. So even as one of - if not the - most affordable Montegrappa pens currently available, the Montegrappa Elmo will still cost you a pretty penny! The starting price of 175€ or 170$ (without VAT) isn't too bad, but realistically you'll want the more interesting 'Fantasy Blooms' colorways, which end up at 210€/ 200$. At that price, it finds itself in the territory of pens like the Leonardo Momento Zero (review HERE) or Esterbrook Estie. Those are difficult pens to compete against, especially since the Elmo -while a good pen - maybe isn't a memorable one, and it isn't without its flaws either!
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN
Note: This product was sent on loan by our site sponsor Appelboom, 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: MONTEGRAPPA ELMO FANTASY BLOOMS FOUNTAIN PEN