Wednesday, December 12, 2018

REVIEW: SYAHI IMPERATOR FOUNTAIN PEN

Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
Syahi - perhaps not a brand you have heard about before, and that's because they are still fairly new on the market (founded in 2017). On paper, this young Indian brand brings an impressive list of features to the table that could make for an awesome pen: A large -almost oversized- form factor, handmade, almost completely wooden construction and an extensive selection of steel nibs to choose from (including flexible, or BB nibs!). The recipe for success... but does it also impress in real life?

Before we dive into the review: a big thanks to Syahi for sending this pen over for review! 
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
The Syahi Imperator arrives in a stylish cardboard box, and is accompanied by a rather decent-looking leather (I don't think it's real leather, but it's very soft nevertheless) single pen case. The presentation definitely gives off a luxury vibe, and would look great as a gift.
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
The Imperator model is large, and has a flattop cigar shape that's considerably girthy. The outside is made completely out of wood (in this case 'Ipe', Brazillian walnut). and accentuated by 'antique brass' trims that have a slightly brushed finish to them. It's a good-looking pen with an understated elegance to it. The warm brown wood has a nice grain and texture, and it pairs well with the understated, gold-colored trims. 
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
But unfortunately it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Because when I took a closer look, I started to notice quite a few build quality issues. Of course wood is a natural product and it's not the easiest to work with, but there are some details that I think should have been finished a bit better.
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
mind the gap
The trim rings at the clip and back of the barrel move around, causing them to sit misaligned with the rest of the cap and barrel. 
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
The assembly of the wooden parts on the metal liners in the cap and barrel isn't done very accurately, there is some pretty obvious glue residue left on a few metal parts. 
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
The center band also had a rather obvious scratch on one side. It's unfortunate to see these flaws that really shouldn't be present on a pen in this price class. I feel like they miss some level of QC that would prevent errors like this, which I think would be very easy to fix. 
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
L to R: Leonardo Momento Zero, Pelikan M800, Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator, Syahi Imperator, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
In terms of size, the Imperator is a comfortably large pen, measuring 14.2 cm (5.6") capped, and 13cm (5.11 ") uncapped. The cap doesn't post, but I don't think that's a problem for most people. It's a rather bulky pen, but in a pleasant way that fits my hand nicely. The section isn't overly wide, so that means there is a bit of a step from barrel to section. Nevertheless, the metal block threads and the step didn't prove bothersome in the hand. 
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
The #6 steel nib is another area where I stand very divided (unfortunately). The Syahi website mentions that their nibs are: 'german-tipped nibs made in india'. It's not the prettiest nib in the world, the surface of the metal looks 'wavy' (in lack of a better word to describe it) and the decorative line that visually separates the gold-plated part from the rest of the nib isn't stamped properly so it doesn't run all the way across the nib surface. 

They mention that their nibs are tuned by an in-house nibmeister and I'm inclined to believe that because the writing experience is actually really good. Even though the build quality of the nib is somewhat shoddy, it performs excellent out of the box. I went for the BB because you don't come across double broads very often on steel nibs, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a fabulously smooth, wet writer that lays down a broad (western broad) line, and the plastic feed keeps up nicely with the heavy ink flow.

Unfortunately the tables turned again the next day, when I tried to write after the pen had been sitting unused for a day... it had dried out quite badly. Bummer, so I primed the feed and didn't put any further thought into it. The next day I had the same issue, sometimes it even dried out after a few hours. It just kept drying out! So I figured it must've been the ink (after all, I DID put the rather infamous Organics studio Walden Pond in it!) and changed it a couple times over the next few weeks, trying different, less saturated inks. Unfortunately the drying out issues persist, and it hard starts every time the pen has been sitting idle for a while. It distracts from the otherwise excellent performance of the nib, and makes it a difficult pen to use on a daily basis because it's rather unreliable. 
Review: Syahi Imperator fountain pen
I really wanted to like the Syahi Imperator. It's such a good-looking pen, and the nib is downright excellent when it works. But it's plagued with quite a few issues that you simply shouldn't find on a 159$ pen. They are a young brand so there's room for improvement, and I sincerely hope they can fix these issues because the potential for an excellent pen is certainly there. It shouldn't be so difficult to ramp up QC, which would take care of a lot of the things that bothered me, and perhaps a plastic liner inside the cap could fix the drying out issues. But, at least at this very moment, I can't really recommend the Syahi Imperator, especially in a price range where there are many excellent steel-nibbed competitors (such as Edison, Franklin-Christoph, Leonardo Officina Italiana,...) 

This product was sent to me by Syahi, 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: Syahi Imperator fountain pen

Monday, December 3, 2018

REVIEW: STILFORM KOSMOS TI PEN

Review: Stilform Kosmos Ti ballpoint pen
My first encounter with the German brand Stilform -a couple months ago when I reviewed the Stilform Ink (read my review HERE)- was a very positive one. And it got me really excited to try out the ballpoint pen version of Kosmos as well! 
Review: Stilform Kosmos Ti ballpoint pen
The names of both the fountain pen and ballpoint pen are quite similar, which makes sense because both the Kosmos and Kosmos Ink are based on the same concept: to build a pen around a magnetic mechanism! The design language of both Kosmos products is also quite similar. Both are characterized by a minimal design, rounded finials and cleanly chamfered edges... The result is a simple but very well-executed design. 
Review: Stilform Kosmos Ti ballpoint pen
Contrary to the Ink, it lacks the flat sides that prevents it from rolling, which I actually think could've been helpful because it rolls around like crazy (needless to say this one saw some abuse, and visited the floor a couple times). Stilform does offer a walnut pen rest, but you have to buy it separately and it's not particularly travel-friendly.

The Kosmos comes in two metal options: aluminium or titanium. I received the Kosmos Ti to review, which has a bit more heft than the aluminium option, and it comes in two finishes: polished or matte. The polished version I received is sleek and shiny, and has a very space-age feel to it. Being mirror-polished, it does pick up scratches and scuffs quite easily. After a few months of playing around with it, it's quite battle-worn, so if you don't like that, the matte version is supposedly more resistant to scratches. The two titanium parts (front section and barrel) are spaced with a black metal inner sleeve, which is part of the mechanism. When the pen is opened, it retracts, and the chamfered edges of the two titanium halves meet neatly.
Review: Stilform Kosmos Ti ballpoint pen
Review: Stilform Kosmos Ti ballpoint pen
L to R: Baron Fig Squire Click, Karas Pen Co. Retrakt, Stilform Kosmos Ti, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Kosmos is a nicely sized pen. It feels small in comparison to other ballpoint pens, but in reality it is far from small. Measuring 13.7 cm (5.4") 'closed' and 13.4 cm (5.27") 'open', it's a decently sized pen in the hand. The profile is fairly slim, with a constant diameter of 11 mm across the entire barrel, the front section narrowing down towards the tip of the pen. The slick finish of this particular polished titanium finish in combination with the streamlined profile makes this pen somewhat slippery to hold at times, which I think may be better with the matte aluminium or sandblasted titanium options. The Kosmos Ti feels solid in the hand, at 42g. I personally like heavier pens, but if you don't, the aluminium version is a good bit lighter at 26g.
Review: Stilform Kosmos Ti ballpoint pen
The way this pen works is really cool. They have a diagram on their Kickstarter page (unfortunately I couldn't find it on their website) that shows the guts of the Kosmos, and it's actually surprisingly simple: a magnet connected to the front section and the black 'inner tube' is pushed and pulled by magnets on either side that are fixed to the barrel. When operating the mechanism, the magnets pull on the moving magnet and keep the barrel in either extended (closed) or retracted (open) position. When it works, it works really well. The magnets are really strong and you need a tight grip to open and close the pen. The action works with a very satisfying (and very loud) snap. 

But unfortunately... it doesn't always work. I tested one of the pre-production prototypes of the Stilform Ti about a year ago, and the mechanism failed after a couple days so I never got around to actually reviewing it. Luckily they seem to have fixed the issue in the production model that I have in my hands right now, which has clicked satisfyingly for months and still works just fine.

Writing with the Kosmos pen is smooth and hassle-free. I have a strong suspicion that they utilize Schmidt easyflow 9000 Parker-style refills, but it's just branded 'Kosmos' so I'm not entirely sure. In any case, it's an extremely pleasant refill, and it actually made me want to use this pen all the time. It's dark and smooth, lays down a consistent medium line. 
Review: Stilform Kosmos Ti ballpoint pen
The Kosmos Ti is an interesting piece of functional design. It's a pure, minimal pen, built around a really interesting and unique mechanism. It ticks a lot of the right boxes for me. The polished titanium finish is perhaps a bit too slick for my liking, but the excellent refill (and compatibility with a bunch of other refills) pulls the whole experience up a notch. 

The Stilform Kosmos Ti comes in at a retail price of 120€ (136$), which is exactly double the price of the aluminium Kosmos. I'm usually a big fan of titanium pens, they are strong, have a nice heft and look good while at it. But in this case, while I think the aluminium Kosmos is a pretty good deal for what you get, the premium for the titanium version might be a bit steep. 

This product was sent to me by Stilform, 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, November 18, 2018

REVIEW: PELIKAN SOUVERAN M800 STONE GARDEN SPECIAL EDITION FOUNTAIN PEN

Review: Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden Special edition fountain pen
I'll admit that I'm a rather loyal collector of the Pelikan Souverän M8XX special editions. Yet, I've been able to restrain myself and hold off on quite a few recent editions like the Vibrant Blue and Ocean Swirl. I guess they weren't really my thing anyway, as I wasn't that big on the vibrant colorways of those releases.
Review: Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden Special edition fountain pen
And then they announced their latest release, the M800 Stone Garden, a few months ago... The same tried and true Souverän pen (that I reviewed multiple times before), but once again built up from a completely new combination of materials. The color combo is definitely unique, combining a dark blue resin for the cap, section and piston knob, and a beautiful brown-blue marbled material for the barrel. As I'm usually not a fan of blue pens, I wasn't immediately hooked. But the subdued color scheme ultimately pulled me over. My thanks to Appelboom for sending one over to take a look at in this review!
Review: Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden Special edition fountain pen
In person, this is an absolutely stunning pen. The material has a marble-like diagonal striation to it, and the blue and brown flecks create a shimmering light and dark contrast. Combined with the gold trim, this is an extremely classy pen. I love how the Souverän pens can appear classic -almost in a vintage way- or modern and sleek, depending on the materials they use (case in point: the Stone Garden vs. the M815 Metal Stripe!).

One thing I don't really like, is how the pattern is interrupted by a single seam along the length of the barrel. Pelikan creates the barrel by hot-forming sheets of resin into tubes (called the 'binde'), so you'll always have a seam somewhere, it's just not visible on most materials they use. It's not too obvious, as it took me a good while to even notice it, so it certainly isn't a deal-breaker for me.
Review: Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden Special edition fountain pen
The Souverän M800 is a fairly large pen, measuring 14.1 cm (5.57") capped, and 12.7 cm (5") uncapped. It posts securely, creating a pen that measures 16.6 cm (6.53"). The brass piston mechanism adds just the right amount of heft, giving a total weight of 30 g. I've raved about the M8XX on multiple occasions before, it's pretty much the perfect size for my hand (with the M6XX a close second, especially if you have smaller hands!). I forgot to take a size comparison photo of the Stone Garden, but you can find one in my review of last years Renaissance Brown special edition!
Review: Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden Special edition fountain pen
The nib on this Stone Garden is new to me, because it's actually the first time that I got to play with the EF on one of Pelikan's high-end models. I figured, since the latest price increase, that I shouldn't wait any longer to get one... God forbid they might go up in price again in the future (The current  55€ premium you pay for an EF nib is already quite absurd!)
Review: Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden Special edition fountain pen
In terms of performance, what can I say? It's an excellent nib. As you may know, I'm usually not drawn towards the finer end of the nib spectrum, but this one is hard to knock. It's a solid performer. Maybe a tad bit boring because of the inherent stiffness of the M800 nibs (when I do buy finer nibs, I like a bit of 'cushioning' in my writing), but the ink flow is consistent (surprisingly not overly wet) and it's ample smooth. When comparing this to a Japanese EF, the line it puts down is still about twice as wide, but nevertheless it should be perfectly usable even when you have small handwriting.
Review: Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden Special edition fountain pen
I like the new Stone Garden (Who'd have thunk it!). Even though blue pens don't tend to be my first choice, I think they did a fantastic job on the color combination here. It's a classy-looking pen, which is how I tend to like my Pelikans (The Burnt Orange, Tortoise brown, Renaissance,...). I think a professional and subdued color scheme works better with the Souverän design than a more vibrant material (like the new Vibrant Orange m600), but I guess that's just my personal preference.

In general -but especially with the special editions- Pelikan is slowly pulling up their prices. Where they once offered a competitive price compared to say, Montblanc, that price gap is now slowly fading away. The Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden retails for 519€ (612$) here in Europe. But for the non-EU audience that buy from overseas (like from Appelboom, for example) the price drops down to 437€ (500$) without VAT. The price hike for EF nibs will add about 55€ (65$), which I feel is quite unfair for people that prefer a finer nib.
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Note: Appelboom is a sponsor of this blog. I received a discount on the purchase of this product. 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 affilate links.
Review: Pelikan Souverän M800 Stone Garden Special edition fountain pen