Friday, December 27, 2019

REVIEW: OPUS 88 OMAR DEMONSTRATOR FOUNTAIN PEN

Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
I've raved about Opus 88 before, and I may just do it again today! Of the -now 4- pens I've tried (three of which I've reviewed before, the Koloro Demonstrator, Fantasia and now this one), Opus has managed to keep up a remarkably high and steady standard across all of them. 

The Taiwanese brand (apparently founded in 1977 already, according to the box?) took off a couple years ago with a refreshing collection of fountain pens that utilized combinations of ebonite and acrylic, excellent JoWo nibs, and a Japanese eyedropper filling system. But I think the real reason they suddenly got so much attention, is because of the excellent quality-to-price ratio. My favorite back then was the Koloro Demonstrator (now just called 'Demonstrator', but I'll refer to it as Koloro to keep things clear): an oversized, completely clear acrylic pen. 
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
The Omar is one of Opus' latest models, and didn't blow me away right away (although they do come in very interesting combinations of transparent and 'cracked ice' acrylics), but when I heard of a demonstrator version coming out... Now THAT'S something I was interested in!
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
The Omar Demonstrator is again a seriously large pen. It makes sense that I enjoy it just as much as the original Koloro Demonstrator, because in essence... it's identical. That's to say, all threads and internals are machined to the exact same specifications on both pens. That also means that basically all parts are interchangeable with each other. So if you'd want, you could go around mix-and-matching your own unique design (Pro tip: the cap of the Koloro Demo on the Omar body looks quite sleek!). 

On the outside, the design is obviously different. We're looking at a much more 'sculpted' design, compared to the completely straight and angular Koloro Demo. The Omar has a more elegant, bulbous shape. Although on a pen this size, elegant is perhaps not the right word to use. It's still a chunky-looking, beefy pen.
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
Opus' pens are generally quite light on trims and decoration -perhaps a way of keeping the cost of the pen down? The Omar has a chunky clip, the shape of which I'm not particularly fond of. Where I found the clip on the Koloro Demo a bit flimsy, this one is too tight. Then again, these pens are probably too big to carry in a pocket anyway. 
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
The Omar has two wide, matte black metal rings, one at the cap finial, one at the back finial. Together with the large, chunky overall shape of the pen, the trim doesn't look particularly refined either. However, it does look sleek and creates a stark contrast against the transparent acrylic. The only downside about the (powder-coated?) matte black trim is its' proneness to scuffing and becoming glossy with use.
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
Where I've always been quite impressed with the build quality on Opus pens, the Omar manages to take that to the next level. Threads are crisp (also internally, quite important on a demonstrator pen of course) and machining marks are nowhere to be found. Polishing is exceptionally consistent. Surfaces inside the cap, barrel, and section are again chemically etched to create a nice matte finish, and once again the consistency with which they applied this etching is impressive. Opus can easily compete in a far higher price category when it comes to build quality. 
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
L to R: Pelikan M805, TWSBI 580Al, Ensso Piuma, Opus 88 Omar, Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
I was quite surprised when I realized the Omar is an even bigger pen than the already-large Koloro Demonstrator. It measures exactly 15cm (5.9") with the cap on and 13.7cm (5.4") without. It's a very bulky 1.8cm (0.7") in diameter at the widest point. So both in width and length, it trumps the Koloro Demonstrator or a Montblanc 149 for that matter. With its 34 grams, the Omar has a bit more heft than the Koloro Demo, too. 
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
Not a fan of oversized pens? Then it's safe to say the Omar may not make your shortlist. But it's not as terrible as it may seem. Despite its' mammoth size, the Omar Demo still manages to be a very comfortable pen to write with. The bulbous shape fits the hand naturally, and it narrows down towards the section to make for a grip section that's not too wide at all. The pen has just enough heft to let you feel it's there, yet not enough to cause fatigue. 

The section is a decent size, and has a nice taper to it, flaring out at the end. The shape of the section invites your grip more towards the front, keeping your fingers away from the threads. The threads themselves never bothered me, but there's a small step right behind them that's a bit noticeable.
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
I'm not big on eyedroppers, but I do like Japanese eyedroppers. It's still a simple system (it can hardly be called a filling mechanism, I guess), but adds a shutoff valve to temper the massive 3.5ml-ish ink capacity when you need to. It's sealed shut when not in use, ideal for traveling (unlike normal eyedroppers), and the ink flow can be controlled by simply opening or closing the valve while you write. It's pretty great, apart from when you need to clean it out.
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
The stock JoWo nib that all Opus 88 pens come with is an excellent choice for everyday writers. The nibs are reliable (probably more so than those from Bock), albeit maybe a touch bland. The EF on this pen actually lays down a very fine line, and it has the feedback you should expect with a nib that fine. I quite like it for notetaking, and with an ink capacity like this, it lasts ages before needing a refill. To take better advantage of an ink capacity like this, pair it up with something broad or a stub nib, like the FANTASTIC Franklin-Christoph Music nib... or a Pilot Parallel?
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
Opus 88 scored massive internet points when the Pilot Parallel pen hack came up, and so I had to give it a go. You just unscrew the stock JoWo nib section as a whole (and remove the rubber o-ring right behind it) and throw in the nib and feed of a Parallel pen. Plenty simple. Congratulations, you now hold a pretty brilliant calligraphy pen with a MUCH more comfortable body than that of the Pilot Parallels and a ridiculously large ink capacity! Although for the OCD peeps like me: the frosted finish on the inside of the section does get messed up a bit when you do this pen hack.
Review: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
My verdict on the Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator? There's a lot to like about it: First of all, the build quality is bar none. Secondly, I like how Opus has a way of coming up with designs that are exciting and just a little different. And above all -need I repeat it any more- the value proposition is pretty perfect. 108€/ 126$ Is definitely in that 'next-level pen' category, but it's a very fair price for the quality you get in return. I'd be tempted to put this up against the -also great- Leonardo Momento Zero Grande, but then you're looking at a price that's almost three times higher.
Appelboom
Note: This product was sent by Opus 88 and 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: Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen

Saturday, December 14, 2019

REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
So if you've been following along recently, you may have caught me raving once or twice about the Leonardo Momento Zero Grande on social media and in my recent Holiday Gift Guide. The Grande simply ticks a lot of boxes for me, and -IMHO- improves on the regular (and widely popular) Momento Zero (reviewed HERE).
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
You see, the Momento Zero is already a great pen in its own respect. It offers a fantastic design (heavily inspired by one of my all-time favorite brands: Delta), spot-on build quality and well-tuned Bock nibs. All that for a price that's pretty uncommon for Italian pens. I expected the Grande to be more of the same only in a slightly larger overall footprint. In reality, they managed to exceed my expectations in almost every way, almost...
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
The Grande doesn't strike me as a massive pen, but next to a regular MZ the size difference is hard to ignore
Where to start? Well, the Grande obviously grew a bit, almost a full centimeter over the Momento Zero. Oddly enough, for the massive oversized pen it is, it never strikes me as one. The larger size is best appreciated when both Momento Zero models are put side-to-side. It easily dwarfs several considerably large pens like the Montblanc 149. At 15cm/ 5.9" closed and 13.5cm/ 5.3" uncapped, it's bigger than a Montblanc 149 and it's almost as wide. The Grande is a few millimeters wider than the regular MZ, but not quite as girthy as the 149. The fully metal captured converter adds a good bit of weight to the Grande, at 35 grams it's even heavier than the Montblanc.
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Pelikan M805, Edison Beaumont, Leonardo Momento Zero, Leonardo Momento Zero Grande, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The section is also a bit longer and girthier than that of the regular Momento Zero, but the difference is rather minimal. It still has that unusual but remarkably comfortable shape, and now bears a decorative metal ring at the edge (Salvatore told me it's made from plated stainless steel, so it should not corrode over time).
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
So it's bigger, but the design is still unmistakably Momento Zero-ish. The clip is smaller and slimmer (an unusual choice for a larger pen, but it looks quite striking). The cap now has three decorative rings, although to be fair some regular MZ's already had that too.

The Grande comes standard in five new stunning resins. You may have noticed that the pen Leonardo sent me to review is the 'Coffee' resin, but has gold trims. This caught me off-guard initially, as none of the Grande are sold as such. A few messages with Salvatore made it clear that, while they don't offer every trim as a standard option, they can make them on request.
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
The most noticeable design change that the Grande received, is that the cap now sits flush against the barrel because of the pinch near the edge. A minute detail that strikes me as a very 'Italian-esque' - you may have seen it on some Omas pens before. The flipside of the seamless transition from barrel to cap is that it makes the step from barrel to section a bit larger. Admittedly, it's a minute difference. But in terms of comfort, the step is ever-so-slightly more noticeable in the hand. Luckily the metal ring right behind the section is nicely rounded to help ease the transition.
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
The filling system is a bit of an oddball. The cartridge/converter system makes way for an integrated converter that cannot be removed. It's well-made -as is the regular converter on the other models- with metal parts that are engraved with a nice greek-key motif and the Leonardo logo. At well over one mL (Most websites state 1.2 mL, but I can't seem to get that yield), the ink capacity takes a considerable leap over a standard international converter (0.8~ish mL) but still falls short of 'true' piston fillers like the Pelikan M800 (2 mL).
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
Now here's the thing: I don't like that you cannot (or should not) remove the converter. I think they should've just called it a piston-filler (in many ways, it IS) and sealed the barrel shut so you can only fill it from the blind cap at the back of the pen. Now it still looks and feels like an 'inferior' converter-filled pen, but without the possibility of removing the converter or using cartridges. A bit nitpicky, I know... but in terms of value proposition, a 300$ piston filler sounds like a better deal to me.
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
The nib is again Bock-made with Leonardo's own custom laser-etched imprint. This one is again different from previous models, with a subtle line etched along the tines. I don't quite understand why each Leonardo model so far has received a slightly different nib design, making it difficult to swap nibs between pens, but oh well...
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
The nib rests on an ebonite feed, something usually reserved for higher-end pens only. The steel nib noticeably benefits from the custom feed, which provides a wet and steady flow of ink. Whereas the regular MZ seemed a bit prone to drying out, the Grande does not seem to dry out much at all (even after weeks of not being used). The EF steel nib is fantastic. That's to say, I wouldn't exactly describe it as an extra fine. But the -relatively- fine line it puts down, it puts down very well. The flow is wet, and the nib is superbly smooth and responsive.
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN
The Momento Zero Grande improves on a pen that didn't really need improvement to begin with. I'm fairly certain the regular Momento Zero will continue to provide everything most users need, but the larger size and small-but-noticeable upgrades of the Grande make it a slightly more refined pen overall. Especially if you prefer larger pens, it will definitely be up your alley.

The price is high, at around 295€ (270$), it's twice that of the regular MZ. Add a gold nib (+200$), and it puts up a fair fight against similarly priced pens like the Pelikan Souverän M800. That being said, I'm quite strongly convinced that you get your money's worth.

NOTE: This product was provided 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.
REVIEW: LEONARDO MOMENTO ZERO GRANDE FOUNTAIN PEN

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2019

Holiday Gift Guide 2019 - The Pencilcase Blog
Ahh, the holiday season! A time of joy, celebrating with friends and family, good food, watching Home Alone for the nth time, and of course: presents! But oh boy! Gift-giving can be difficult, especially for the (fellow-) pen addicts in your life. What do you buy for someone that already has a bunch of pens, notebooks, and inks? Simple: more pens, notebooks, and inks!

So how did I go about selecting products? First of all, I tried to focus on new and exciting -dare I say 'trendy'- products of the past year. But of course there are some hard-to-ignore classics out there too, that always work well as a gift. Then there's the problem of price. From thoughtful stocking stuffers to more premium presents, depending on how much you want to spend on a gift there are literally thousands of options. 

So which present will you gift? I divided my suggestions into three price categories. Talking about price: check out the discount codes of each of my sponsors -Appelboom, La Couronne Du Comte, Penworld, Casa Della Stilografica and Ensso- in the ads on your right-hand side for an even better price!

GIFTS BELOW OR AROUND 50$

I certainly stand behind the thought that gifts don't have to be expensive, rather it's the thought and care behind it that really matters. The price class up to the 50$ mark I think is a perfect sweet spot for excellent stocking stuffers and secret Santa gifts, and there's a wide variety of great products to choose from!

Pebble Stationery notebooks - Tomoe River for your pocket

Pebble stationery notebooks
Pebble Stationery's pocket-friendly notebooks with the brilliant Tomoe River paper would make for a great stocking stuffer. They are fantastic quality (the paper is great for fountain pens - of course!), they look smart, and represent fantastic value for money. I'd recommend the Starter Pack for a gift, which includes two A6 pocket notebooks and one larger A5 Cahier in a nice set for just over 20$.

Baron Fig Squire rollerball - The Minimalist's pick

Baron Fig Squire rollerball
The Baron Fig Squire is an absolute must for the design-minded minimalist in your family. It's a staple in my carry, for a good reason. Their rollerball pens are nicely designed -minimal AND fantastic to hold in the hand- and are built around the quintessential Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill. There are a ton of finishes and material options to choose from, as well as a click version. You can also get the Squire as part of a set with accessories or notebooks. Baron Fig's branding and packaging is a treat for the minimalist eye, so their products are excellent as a gift. The Baron Fig Squire starts at a very reasonable 45$.

Ensso Pen Uno - it's a bird! it's a plane! it's a pen!

Ensso Pen Uno
For a quirky pen gift, the Pen Uno (45$) is a solid contender. Housing a fan-favorite Pilot Hi-Tec C gel refill, the Pen Uno looks nothing like a pen from afar but transforms into a super-thin yet comfortable writing utensil with a flick of the thumb. A cool fidget toy, a unique design, but also a surprisingly fun pen to write with - The Pen Uno has a lot going for it, and is priced reasonably to make for a great gift!

Faber-Castell Essentio - German engineering 

Faber-Castell Essentio
Faber-Castell might not be the first brand that comes to mind when looking for a gift. It might not even be the first brand that comes to mind, period. But maybe it should be! Forget Cross, Waterman, or Parker and gift a Faber-Castell instead. The Essentio (successor to the Basic collection) can be found around the 45$ mark and comes in a chic brushed aluminum finish that will impress newbie and seasoned fountain pen users alike. FC's designs can be polarizing, but the build quality is always on point and their steel nibs are some of the best quality on the market.

Midori MD notebooks - Japanese Wabi-Sabi

Midori MD notebook
Paper is arguably every bit as important as the pen itself. Yet it's often overlooked, especially by those that are just getting started with fountain pens. Open up their horizon with a bit of Japanese je-ne-sais-quoi in the form of the Midori MD Notebooks. In true Japanese Wabi-Sabi style, these notebooks are as barebones as they get. But the build quality is bar none, and the paper inside is fantastic.

Inks - the choice is yours

ink
For the pen enthusiast that already has a bunch of pens but still uses ink cartridges, bottled inks are arguably the ideal stocking stuffer! There's SO. MUCH. CHOICE. these days and you can get great inks for just a few dollars. The choice is all yours! A few recommendations to throw in the mix are:

Sailor Ink Studio (buy HERE) - 100 colors picked from an experiment with 10 000 custom mixed shades that span the entire spectrum, and some of them have shaken the world of fountain pen ink. Dual tones like 123, 162, 143 or 173 bring something entirely new to the table, and are sure to cause addiction! (18$)

Kyo-No-Oto (buy HERE) - I love love love Kyo-No-Oto's palate of subdued inks: Adzuki-iro Urahairo, Hisoku, Keshimurasaki, Sakura-nezumi... very exotic names for classy and unique inks! (24$)

Pelikan Edelstein (buy HERE) - Easily my favourite for everyday use, Edelstein are hard-to-knock, workhorse inks. They are sort of a golden standard, delivering excellent quality for a reasonable price (definitely shop in Europe for the best deals on these!). (15$)

Jacques Herbin 1670 & 1798 Shimmer inks (buy HERE) - While I'm not one to generally go for shimmering inks, Jacques Herbin has the best ones IMHO. Their 1670 (gold particles) and 1798 (silver particles) inks have excellent flow and the colors are rich and vibrant. (19-20$)

GIFTS UP TO 200$

Today's fountain pen market seems to revolve very strongly around the 50$ to 200$ price range. So naturally, there's a lot of new and exciting products to be found here.

Lamy Studio - A not-so-classic classic

Lamy Studio fountain pen
The Lamy Studio is often suggested as a next-level Lamy, with good reason. It's a modern, but timeless design with sturdy metal construction and Lamy's steel nibs are simply very nice writers. Especially this year's Aquamarine special edition (63$), and the stunning blacked-out Lx version (86$) are top picks and make for a very versatile gift. 

Esterbrook Pen Nook

Esterbrook Pen Nook case
A fine pen needs to travel in a fine case, and Esterbrook's Pen Nook is perhaps the most fun option I've come across yet. The cognac faux-leather hard case outer shell slides open to reveal the most colorful Paisley fabric you've ever seen! It's so Extra, it's brilliant. The Pen Nook can fit rather large pens, displaying them nicely when open. The rigid construction also protects them very well on the go. (Starts at 82$)

Opus 88 Omar Demo - a clear winner

Opus 88 Omar Demonstrator fountain pen
Opus 88 continues to impress with their unusual designs, premium filling mechanism, and spotless build quality -all at a price point that's hard to beat. The JoWo nibs are tried and true, but you can also go off the beaten path and create a fun calligraphy and doodle pen with the Parallel pen hack. Right when I thought the Koloro Demonstrator was about the best they could do, the Omar Demo came around. The exact same internals, but built into an even more oversized demonstrator model with a comfortable, curved profile. For around 120$, you get a LOT of pen and equal amounts of fun!

Schon DSGN Clip Pen

Schon DSGN Clip pen
The Schon DSGN Pen has become sort of a cult product of its own. Ian does fantastic work and sticks true to his design. It's the embodiment of a premium pocket pen, and since not too long Ian has added a matching pocket fountain pen (114$) to his catalog as well (I haven't tried it myself yet, but ask anyone and you'll hear nothing but high praise)

Inventery Mechanical Pen + Pencil

Inventery Mechanical Pen + Pencil
Another strong piece of minimal design comes from the hand of Inventery. The Mechanical pen follows their typical, very angular design language and is machined from brass to give a solid and pleasant feel in the hand. Unique about the Mechanical pen is that it can transform from pen to mechanical pencil with the exchange of just a few parts. This smart design is surprisingly also the most affordable Inventery pen and therefore a pretty great deal, starting at 60$.

Galen Leather Collector's case - for the hoarder

Galen Leather Collector's pen case
Another pen storage option, this time for the enthusiastic pen enthusiast that has amassed him- or herself a considerable collection. The Galen Leather Collector's case (95$) provides space for 40 pens in a unique layout. Whereas most 40 pen cases are about the size of a large binder and not very practical to take with you, Galen's approach makes for a very unusual-looking case that fits right in with the books on your bookshelf. On top of that Galen's unique designs are very well-built and reasonably priced.

GIFTS OVER 200$

If you're a serious gift-giver (or you want to spoil yourself for the holidays!), I'd suggest these products over 200$ would be on my personal wishlist:

Montegrappa Extra Custom - made-to-order luxury

Montegrappa Extra Custom fountain pen
The entire idea surrounding the Montegrappa Extra Custom (starts at 1150$) is a breath of fresh air. The fact that you can fully customize your pen down to the smallest detail is awesome. If you have the money to spend, a unique Extra Custom would be a fantastic personalized gift for the seasoned pen enthusiast that already has one of each. The Extra Custom comes with a two week lead time so you should still be in time for the holidays, or you could let the recipient create their own design (but be careful with how much freedom you give them... the price can add up quickly!)

A Nakaya - the refined choice

Nakaya fountain pen
I only very recently got my first Nakaya, and I can already say that a list of exclusive gifts would not be complete without a Nakaya. Really any model would make for a 'WOW' moment when the wrapping is torn away in excitement, but my personal choice would be the fat cigar model, exclusive to Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery. The benefit of ordering from an (online) store -as opposed to from Nakaya directly- is that they usually have a substantial stock readily available, so you don't have to wait until next year to gift one! (Starts at 690$)

Pelikan M1005 Stresemann - the quintessential classic

    Pelikan M1005 Stresemann fountain pen
    An absolute classic like the Pelikan Souverän is never a misplaced gift. The modern and timeless grey striped Stresemann M1005 special edition (600$) would be my pick for this year. If the M1000 model is a bit too large, stick with the M600 or M800 size instead. Both are full-sized pens that work with most hands. For the M800 size, this year's Brown Gold Special Edition would be my choice. I haven't had the chance to play with this new colorway, but it looks stunning! 

    Leonardo Officina Italiana Momento Zero Grande - new kid on the block

      Leonardo Momento Zero Grande
      Any of the Leonardo pens would do, really. But my personal favorites are the Momento Zero and especially the new MZ Grande (285$). The price difference for the Grande version is significant, but so is the upgrade you receive in return. The Grande is a true 'Oversized' pen that follows the general lines of the original Momento Zero and comes with a custom ebonite feed and larger ink capacity from the internal piston mechanism. These pens are just so well-made and generally write flawlessly... it's difficult not to recommend.

      Scribo Feel - Omas nibs reincarnated

      Scribo Feel fountain pen
      Yes, the Scribo Feel (625$) is a somewhat controversial design, but it does so many things so very right. The nibs are made to Omas specifications, meaning they are among the best in the biz. The design is typically Italian, a bit bold (literally) and unique. The material options are nicely curated, especially the new Grigio is stunning!

      I was in no way influenced in the making of this post, the choices and opinions shared in this post are completely my own! This post does not contain affiliate links.