Tuesday, October 19, 2021

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

I've been lucky enough to be able to follow Ben Walsh quite closely on his journey to get the Gravitas brand off the ground. Chatting and exchanging ideas with him on the regular got me a glimpse of the creative mind behind the brand. Ever since starting Gravitas in 2020, one of Ben's goals was to create a more affordable fountain pen to stand alongside the self-titled 'Gravitas' fountain pen (reviewed HERE) that started the brand. A more accessible option into the Gravitas brand (and an entry point into fountain pens, in general), while still being able to live up to the highest quality standards. 

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

The Gravitas 'Entry' fountain pen is all those things - but it would be a mistake to call it an entry-level pen! Because that, it most certainly is not! Instead, the Entry manages to offer an incredible bang for the buck, a design that's easy on the eyes, and a lot of thoughtful design details I've come to expect from Ben's creations. 

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

In the looks department, the sleek and nimble Entry is quite a departure from the chunky, ultra-minimal, torpedo-shaped Gravitas FP. The looks of the Entry are a bit more easily digestible, and perhaps even more traditional, which will undoubtedly make it appeal to a wider audience. It has a flat top design with rather sharp pointed finials on both ends (not that you could cut yourself on it, but they sure are pointy!). The cap has a slightly bulbous shape and is relatively short in comparison to the long and gently tapered barrel. The elegant, streamlined shape gives it somewhat of a brush pen vibe. 

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

As for now, the Entry is available in a myriad of anodized colors on an aluminum basis. I chose the Olive grey colorway, which is a beautiful dark and muted green. If you want a bit more pop, look into the Gravitas signature 'Skittle' rainbow finish. The pen is bead blasted before being sent off to the anodizer, which creates a very smooth and satiny finish that I find very pleasant to the touch.

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Karas Pen Co Ink, Namisu Nova, Ensso Piuma, Gravitas Gravitas FP, Gravitas Entry, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari

The Entry appears smaller but isn't. With a closed length of 14.5 cm (5.71"), it isn't all that much shorter than the oversized Gravitas FP. Uncapped, the Entry retains most of its length (13.8 cm/ 5.43"). Especially the narrower section (down to 9.8 mm/ 0.39" at the thinnest part of the taper) may trick you into thinking you're holding a much smaller pen. So if you prefer slightly thinner pens, the Entry has a high chance of appealing to you. At 31 grams, the Entry strikes a good balance between being nimble, yet offering just enough heft to let you know you're holding a solid metal pen. 

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN
The smooth and streamlined transition from section to barrel offers a comfortable grip

The skinny tapered barrel of the Entry doesn't allow for the cap to be posted. But a pen this size doesn't really need to be posted anyway if you ask me. The Entry scores very high marks in the comfort department, with its long and gently tapered shape, a long section that transitions smoothly into a set of shallow and non-sharp threads. There's also no step that could interfere with your grip.

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

The stainless steel section deserves some attention here, as it really ties the entire pen together. The black-PVD coating provides a sleek look that pairs well with this anodized 'Grey Olive' colorway. If you're not a fan of metal sections, don't write the Entry off just yet! The section shape is similar to that of the Gravitas FP, but of course narrower. It has a nice gentle taper towards the nib, before flaring out again to catch your grip.

Talking about grip, this metal section is far from slippery! If you look closer, you'll notice the machined line pattern that runs around the entire length of the section. The pattern is very fine and not aggressive on your fingers, yet does an excellent job providing grip. The more dense stainless steel section, in combination with the aluminum barrel, shifts the center of gravity towards the grip section, creating a pen that feels lightweight and balanced in the hand.

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

The original Gravitas FP prototype I reviewed a year ago, came with a steel Bock nib. But in the meantime, Ben switched entirely to JoWo nibs. Since many similar brands (such as Ensso or Namisu) stick to Bock, it's nice to see Gravitas provide some diversity on the market. Along with every pen, a small handwritten test paper is included, implying that every pen passes through a final QC before being shipped out. And indeed, I have only positive things to say about the writing experience! 

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

The medium steel nib on this particular pen wrote beautifully smooth and hassle-free out of the box. Even though in my experience, JoWo tends to offer rather consistent, properly set-up nibs, I still appreciate that Ben takes the time to check each one individually just to be sure. 

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Gravitas Entry comes in at a fairly accessible price point of 60€. For that money, you receive a sleek, solid metal pen with a stainless steel PVD-coated section, topped off by a hand-tested JoWo nib. Despite being a full-sized pen, its noticeably slimmer and more streamlined profile will undoubtedly appeal to those that find the Gravitas FP just too big. 

On the flipside, the rather slim profile of the Entry could also put some people off (it certainly took me some time to get used to!), though Ben also thought of that and designed the 'Gravitas Sentry': a slightly larger version of the Entry pen for those who prefer a more beefy pen, but with the same design cues as the Entry.

This product was sent to me by Gravitas 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 affilate links.

REVIEW: GRAVITAS ENTRY FOUNTAIN PEN

Sunday, October 10, 2021

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

After too long of an unplanned hiatus (sorry!), we're back with a pen review you probably didn't see coming in a million years! Indeed my first encounter with the Venvstas Magna wasn't a flawless one, considering I had quite a few qualms with the original design. For me, those issues distracted from the impressive and unique looks of the Magna and ultimately made it a less enjoyable pen to use.

But Venvstas didn't leave it at that! Instead, they showed a very strong comeback with their latest version of the Magna: the Venvstas Magna CC. Here's the TL;DR, Venvstas improved on all the pet peeves I had with the original Magna fountain pen, and I really like the end result this time!

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

The original Venvstas Magna -a piston-filled pen- managed to impress me with its brutalist, minimal design made entirely from matte brushed linear carbon fiber, with matte stainless steel accents. I did, however, have some issues with the construction: an open barrel allowing the piston plunger to be depressed accidentally, and a barrel closure that didn't actually hold the barrel closed very well.

The new CC version takes over the design of the original down to the absolute smallest detail, with no visual cues to distinguish between the two versions. At least not on the outside...

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN
The barrel closure is now much more robust

Remove the barrel, and you'll find that Venvstas exchanged the closure mechanism on the barrel for a clutch similar to the one used in the cap (which is much more robust), making the overall construction more secure and rattle-free. Especially when opening and closing the cap, the barrel is held on tight so it stays nicely in place. The updated closure also keeps the barrel and section aligned perfectly, which was another pet peeve I had with the piston-filled version. 

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

But the main difference, as indicated in the name, is the switch from piston-filler to a simpler cartridge/converter system. Where the exposed piston plunger left opportunity for an inky mess with an accidental press (Ha! That rhymes!), the converter in the new version is now fully enclosed by a fixed black cylindrical finial that protrudes from the barrel. The cap can still post just like before, as the overall shape of the barrel did not change at all. The Magna CC uses a standard international converter, and so you can also switch between regular ink cartridges if you like. 

Yeah sure, on paper the switch to a standard cartridge-converter system may sound like a step backward, but believe me when I say that for this pen it makes perfect sense. The only thing you lose is ink capacity, going from the generous 2mL to whatever a standard cartridge or converter can hold (which is roughly 0.8 mL), but that's a trade-off I'll gladly make in return for peace of mind. And let's be honest, c/c pens are actually quite convenient to use unless you really write a lot!


L to R: Pelikan M805, Ensso Piuma, Leonardo Furore, Venvstas Magna CC, Lamy Dialog 3, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari

The Magna CC takes on all dimensions from the piston-filled version: 15.5 cm (6.1") long capped, 14.6 cm (5.74") uncapped, and a comfortable diameter of 12 mm (0.47") across the entire length of the pen. One thing that did change: the Magna CC put on some weight (from 24g to 30g). 

The increase in weight makes for a pen that feels a bit more substantial and solid in the hand, more in line with what you'd expect to feel from a pen this size. The weight of the Magna is nicely balanced around the core of the pen, as most of the internals inside the section are stainless steel. The added heft, combined with the more robust barrel-section joint and lack of rattling, add to the solid feeling of the Magna CC. I also found that the overall fit and finish has become a bit more precise.

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN
I like how the very minimal logo engraving is slightly hidden underneath the 'semi-hooded' part of the nib!

The Venvstas Magna comes equipped with a titanium nib as standard (a gold nib upgrade is also available). While the medium nib from before was a splendid writer, I wanted to try something finer this time. The fine nib came properly set up out of the box and runs true to size, if not slightly on the wider side. Ink flow is generous though not excessive. The F has a noticeable amount of pencil-like feedback, something the medium didn't have -though of course, that makes sense on a finer nib. 

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN
Some ink on the hooded part of the nib is not uncommon due to the design of the cap mechanism. 

This particular nib feels quite firm for a titanium one, although that's not uncommon. There always seems to be a rather wide variation in springiness among titanium nibs. 

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN
Made-in-house nib? Well this is certainly not a standard-issue Bock feed!

As far as I know, Venvstas claimed their nibs are made in-house (in any case, the feed is not a standard Bock type). If so, they sure do know how to make a good nib, my writing experience with the Magna has been excellent in both instances.

REVIEW: VENVSTAS MAGNA C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

If you recall the bottom line on my original review of the Venvstas Magna, I was hopeful. The Magna fell prey to what can best be described as a bit too much 'over-designing', choosing form over function. But there were clear opportunities for improvement to bring the Magna up to the standard I'd expect from a pen in this price range. I also promised that I'd change my opinion if they came through on an improved design... and they did! Needless to say, I'm beyond impressed that they carried out the improvements and changes I had in mind (and executed them flawlessly!), making the Venvstas Magna CC a pen I can 100% fully stand behind. 

The Venvstas Magna CC comes in at  239€/ 230$ without VAT (from our site sponsor Appelboom), conveniently also 10€ cheaper than the piston version. Between the two models, my choice for the Magna CC is clear. But if you're really willing to make some sacrifices in terms of usability and function to get the most 'purist' design object out of the Magna (the way the designer intended it), I suppose the piston-filled version would be the option for you.

Note: This product was sent by Venvstas, 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 C/C FOUNTAIN PEN

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN

A long, long time ago, years before I started this website, I remember visiting a local pen store in Antwerp, where I spotted a tiny little yellow fountain pen somewhere in the corner of a display cabinet. I knew nothing about it back then, other than that the price tag unfortunately didn't read 15 but 150 euros (Oops, my mistake!), thus putting it far out of reach for my student budget! The image of that little yellow pen though... that stuck with me throughout the years. And it wasn't until much later that I realized which pen it was: a Sailor Pro Gear Slim Mini, a rather elusive (outside Japan at least) model that I didn't come across again ever since that day.

However, Sailor recently decided to push the mini version of their popular Pro Gear model onto the worldwide market once again. So, obviously this time I just had to get my own... Thanks go out to our sponsor Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery, for providing this pen for review!
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
Where to start? Well, I think it's fair to say that in terms of design you shouldn't expect any major surprises. For all intents and purposes, the PG Slim Mini is a Slim ('Sapporo') model, squished down to roughly the length of a Kaweco Sport. Despite the noticeably distorted proportions, the design remains otherwise identical, retaining the classic flat-top design of the Pro Gear including all ornamental details such as the decorative trim ring behind the section, the 'staircase' ridged clip, and anchor logo medallion insert in the cap finial. It's no less premium-looking than any other Sailor pen, but it does look kind of cute, don't you think?
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
Despite its short presence on the European and American market (only about a year or so since the re-introduction), the Pro Gear Slim Mini already went through a slight design overhaul. It went from having threads on the blind cap to post the cap, to just being friction-fit. I'd argue this change is for the better, as it's still plenty secure but much faster and easier to post the cap and start writing. It also makes the pen look a bit cleaner, aesthetically.
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
With the slight design change, Sailor also introduced some new colorways for the Mini. Even though I regret that the Mustard Yellow colorway was discontinued, I do appreciate the new, more muted pastel color palette inspired by Moroccan culture. The 'Puff Brown' (shown here) colorway is my favorite from the new selection, a nice dark muted brown, very understated and business-appropriate.
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Schon P6, Kaweco Brass Sport, Platinum 3776, Pelikan M400, Sailor Pro Gear, Sailor Pro Gear Slim Mini, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The PG Slim Mini is a true pocket-sized pen, measuring just 10.9 cm (4.3") capped. Side by side, you can see it's only a few mm longer than a Kaweco Sport, which is perfect for pocket carry. When posted, the Mini transforms into a not-so-mini pen, 13.6 cm (5.37") long. But remember that this is really one of those pens that you just HAVE to post for anything but a quick scribble, as it's a mere 9.6 cm (3.76") uncapped, even shorter than an uncapped Kaweco Sport! 

For such a tiny pen, I was surprised to find that it still weighs in at 16 grams - still very light and nimble for sure, but more than I expected for such a tiny pen. It feels solid in the hand, though of course you're still dealing with a resin pen... and that immediately brings us to my only gripe with the Mini: it's not quite the kind of pen I look for when I think EDC or pocket carry. A pocket pen -for me- is a robust, bomb-proof metal pen with an equally sturdy clip - this is not that! Sure it's probably durable enough to stand the test of time with normal use, but this is not a pen I'll clip into my jeans pocket.
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
Comfort is sometimes lost on pocket pens, but not with this one. The section leans on the slimmer side, but with an average diameter over 9 mm (0.35"), and no harsh threads or steps in the way of your fingers, it's a very comfortable pen to hold in the hand. Combined with the excellent size when posted, and the lightweight construction, I don't at all mind picking up this pocket pen for longer writing sessions!
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
The Mini converter has 'mini' ink capacity... who'd have thunk!
Since regular converters obviously won't fit, Sailor went the extra mile to produce a shorter 'Mini' converter to fit in this pen... But really, they shouldn't have. You'll be paying a rather hefty 8-10€ (about 11$) for one, and the ink capacity is a measly 0.3 mL - less than a third of a Sailor Ink cartridge! 
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN
One of, if not THE, selling points of the Sailor Pro Gear Mini is of course its 14k nib. Same as the one found on the Sapporo and 1911S, it's a small nib (though on this pen it's very much a proportionate size) with big performance! On the Western market, the Mini only comes in the M-F nib width. Somewhat odd that they'd restrict the nib options like that (of course you could, in theory, swap the friction fit nibs out with other Sailor models), but luckily the 'Hard' Medium-Fine continues to hit a sweet spot for my personal writing style. Like all Sailor nibs, it's a rather firm nib with noticeable pencil-like feedback when you write. The M-F lays down a line closest to a Western Fine with a balanced ink flow -as you'd expect from a Japanese pen- which makes it a rather versatile and well-balanced option for everyday writing IMHO. 

From day one, I've been enjoying the Sailor Pro Gear Slim Mini an awful lot. Maybe it's because the small form factor actually is 100% pocket-sized, as opposed to the small-but-not-quite form factor of the 'full-sized' Pro Gear and Pro Gear Slim models. Or perhaps it's because you get one of the best nibs in the game, inside that pocket-sized, EDC-able vessel? In any case, the PG Slim Mini is a great Japanese alternative to the many pocket fountain pens that exist on the market today. Even despite it probably not being my first choice when looking for a pen I can carelessly throw in my pants pocket every day.

Pricing is relatively decent too if you take into account the 14k gold nib! At a retail price of 167€/ 180$ (at our site sponsor, Sakura), it comfortably joins the Lamy 2000 and Platinum 3776 Century on the list of high-quality gold-nibbed pens for under 200$!
REVIEW: SAILOR PRO GEAR SLIM MINI FOUNTAIN PEN