Thursday, February 20, 2020

REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
Jaques Herbin makes pens now, whadda ya think about that? Since their brand refresh a year or so ago, Jaques Herbin (previously J. Herbin) seems to have refocused some of their attention on fountain pens. They previously dabbled in this area, but that never really seemed to take off. This time around, it looks like they mean serious business though. The collection is quite extensive, given they're only about a year into it: leather goods, pens, paper and of course their core business: ink.
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
Their fountain pen collection is seemingly made up of three different pens. But look closely, and you'll see that the general design is identical for all three pens. It's basically just one product divided into three finish 'tiers' - they all look a bit different, and they all sit in a slightly different price range.

The Clipper sits in the middle of the price range and comes in an appealing all-metal brushed finish. The design of the Clipper is rather conservative overall. It has a modern and minimal appearance because it's quite featureless and sleek. This particular version has an all-brushed palladium finish that looks quite clinical and clean, but there's also matte black, rose gold and gold plated options. Fit and finish is really nice, I'm honestly quite impressed. The satin-brushed finish is cleanly done and makes everything fit together nicely. 
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
I like the design quite a bit, but if I had to nitpick... it lacks a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to keep it interesting. I guess you could argue just how much brushed finish is too much, and that they probably could've done with a contrasting finish or color on the trim just to make it stand out a bit... In fact, the Clipper is also available in a version with polished trim. I haven't seen it IRL yet, but I'm pretty sure I'd go for that one just to keep the aesthetic aspect of the pen a bit more interesting.
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Sailor Pro Gear, Conid Minimalistica, Pelikan M805, Pilot Justus 95, Jaques Herbin Clipper, Jaques Herbin Caravelle, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Clipper (and all other Jaques Herbin pens, for that matter) is an average-sized pen that measures 13,8cm capped (5,43"), and 12,7cm (5") without the cap. It's actually a very nice size in the hand with the cap off. The all-metal construction makes for a hefty pen (57g) and I kind of like it, although I'm sure opinions will be divided on that. The textured section has a decent size and provides a bit of grip, but the threads are cut a bit sharp so you do notice them a bit.
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
The titanium nib comes from Bock, and it's stock in every way but the imprint. The engraving on the nib face is excellent. It's very finely detailed, and I dig the way they covered the entire nib in a uniform pattern. Really, this may be one of the best laser-engravings I've seen on any nib. That said, it's still a stock nib underneath though, and we all know how Bock nibs can sometimes be a bit finicky. The EF nib does show a mild baby's bottom, which is a bit of a bummer on a pen this price. It's an otherwise fantastically smooth and soft nib with a really nice flow.
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
There's also something curious going on with the nibs on Jaques' pens: you don't really get much choice. It seems like they just made sure that the nib matches the rest of the pen, because the brushed pens only come with a -matte- titanium nib, and the brushed pens with polished trim have a stainless steel nib, plated to match the rest of the pen. Fair enough... but wait, the pricing doesn't always match with the type of nib that you get! I don't know if this is just an oversight on the Herbin website, but it doesn't make sense that a stainless steel nib would cost the same as a titanium one.
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
The nib situation has me confused. The options are a bit too restrictive it seems, and the performance issues are certainly not great for a pen this price (unfortunately a recurring theme for Bock nibs, showing how important a proper QC really is).

If I'd overlook the nib situation for a second, I'd dare to say Jaques Herbin pulled off a pretty great pen design, especially for their first real foray into the fountain pen business. But then we haven't even looked at pricing yet...
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN
I mean, I get it. I truly do. Jaques Herbin wants to show presence, and establish themselves as a luxury brand, among the likes of Montblanc, Montegrappa, Dupont... But I don't think it works that way, does it? Slapping a fancy rebrand on it doesn't immediately turn everything you make into solid gold. If this was a 1000$ Montblanc, people would probably go nuts over it, but now it's a  pen that costs 355€/415$ and up (345$ without VAT if you buy from Appelboom), from a brand that was previously only known for having decent ink and basically has no reputation as a pen manufacturer. 

I sure hope they'll realize sooner rather than later that their pricing structure needs some work. I can totally see the potential for something good here, if only the prices were a bit more accessible.
Appelboom Pennen
This product was provided on loan by 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 contains affiliate links.
REVIEW: JAQUES HERBIN CLIPPER FOUNTAIN PEN

Sunday, February 9, 2020

REVIEW: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN

QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
Wancher managed to create quite a name for itself in the latest year or two. The Wancher Dream Pen and Dream Pen Urushi kicked things off with a hugely popular Kickstarter campaign: The premise was original and people -myself included- generally seemed to really like the pens that came forth from that. Two years later, it's time for another Kickstarter, and five days in (24 days left as of writing this) they already passed the 100.000$ mark with relative ease. 

Sure, in part that's because they seem to have the marketing aspect down and are omnipresent on social media (the fact that you're reading this review sort of illustrates the point). But of course, the quality has to be there as well. And if it's not too much asked we'd like to see something unique, too. Luckily, the Wancher Seven Treasures Shippoyaki fountain pen seems to deliver on all fronts! 
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
'Unique' certainly seems to be the strong suit of this pen. Ok, from afar it looks like a regular stately, flat-top pen. The large size of the pen is accentuated by the bulky, stout clip and two wide cap bands. The design is quite classy, it has a bit of an old-school Parker Duofold vibe to it.

The material this pen is made of is quite unseen in modern fountain pens: Bakelite! As a chemist, I was quite fascinated because Bakelite is often regarded as the first real fully synthetic plastic and it happens to be invented by a fellow-Belgian: Leo Baekeland! Bakelite is quite a strong material on itself, but here they opted for an even stronger composite Bakelite reinforced with paper and linen. The material has sort of a semi-polished finish and feels very pleasant in the hand.
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
The real reason this pen classifies as unique is the cap finial. Wancher incorporates traditional Japanese artwork in a lot of their pens. With the Dream Pen they showcased Urushi, the Seven Treasures features a small glass inlay in the finial, made with a traditional cloisonné enamel technique called 'Shippo'. I'm not familiar with this kind of technique, but the artwork is made by Okagaki Yukie, who is apparently a reference when it comes to this technique.
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
L to R: Pelikan M800, Opus 88 Omar, Wancher Dream Pen Urushi, Wancher Seven Treasures, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Seven Treasures is a large pen. At 15 cm (5,9") capped, and 13.2 cm (5,2") uncapped. With an overall weight of 39 g it's not a featherweight but doesn't weigh you down when you're writing either. Part of that weight comes from the thick-walled construction, giving the pen a durable and solid feel in the hand.

The section is quite comfortably shaped, but I wish it was a little longer because that would've moved the threads and step a bit further back. The transition towards the barrel isn't terrible, but it's a bit noticeable. The cap does post, but there's actually two reasons why I wouldn't suggest it: it's long enough by itself, and it posts onto the blind cap so you might actually operate the piston by accident.
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
Talking about the piston mechanism... Wancher calls it a high-capacity piston mechanism, but I find that debatable. From my rudimentary measurements, it holds about 1 ml of ink, a bit more than a standard converter but not quite what I'd call 'high-capacity'. The mechanism feels like a captured converter to me, so the piston knob doesn't extend from the barrel when you operate the mechanism. My only gripe with this system is that the piston knob never really tightens down like with a normal piston-filled pen. Especially when you'd post the cap, it would be an easy mistake to twist it, leaving you covered in ink. For example, most Leonardo pens also have captured converters, but they covered the piston knob with a blind cap so you can't accidentally operate the mechanism.
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
One nice detail Wancher thought about is the removable section to avoid staining the material when you fill the pen (Bakelite can take up moisture). It's quite a clever workaround and shows good attention to detail on Wancher's part.
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
The Seven Treasures comes stock with a steel JoWo nib and feed, but you can upgrade the feed to ebonite for 30$ (or red ebonite for 50$) or an 18k gold Wancher nib for an additional 130$. The stock JoWo nib that I received performed flawlessly out of the box, and I really like this monotone gold-plated finish. The medium nib is very smooth and the feed keeps up nicely (although I would still upgrade for the ebonite feed anyway, while you're at it). If you want a more expressive writer, the optional gold Wancher nib offers more springiness and I've had good experiences with it in the past (Read my review HERE).
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW
The final verdict? I think Wancher scores two for two with the Dream Pen and now the Seven Treasures. Once again, they are not afraid to go outside of their comfort zone and manage to offer something quite unique to the fountain pen market. The Wancher Seven Treasures fountain pen brings a small but tangible piece of artwork to your desk, but is also an excellent daily writer to boot! The Bakelite construction is quite cool and the entire pen feels very well-made and solid.

The only real hurdle to the Seven Treasures is its price. Of course, you're paying a premium for the piece of Shippo artwork, but a full MSRP of 300$ it's feels perhaps a bit steep. The current Kickstarter prices are a better deal, starting at 240$ (Super-early bird backer prices of 210$ were already gone on the first day of the campaign, unfortunately!), but it's still not a cheap pen whatsoever. 

NOTE: This product was provided by Wancher, 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.
QUICK LOOK: WANCHER SEVEN TREASURES FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Sunday, January 26, 2020

REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
Ever heard of the Pilot Custom NS? No? Well, neither had I before the writing of this review!

The Custom NS sits at the lower end of the fairly extensive range of Custom-line fountain pens from Pilot. Having been out for a few months now, It's somewhat strange how little talk this pen has received online so far. The NS is a bit of a strange bird in the lineup of rather business-y pens that Pilot is generally known for, and to top it off the value proposition is sort of... interesting. I'll explain later.

UPDATE #1: NS stands for North-South of a compass because the founder of Pilot was a sailor (no, not THAT Sailor!).
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
We'll start with the good stuff though. The Custom NS is a slightly more cheerful design in an otherwise quite bland line of does-the-job-but-nothing-more pens that the 92, 74, 912, 823,... generally tend to be. It's still a fairly simple design overall, and it stays true to many aspects that tie together Pilot pen designs: such as the triangular, ball-end clip that can also be found on the 74, 743, etc.

The more tapered and curved cigar shape is a bit of a departure from the more subtle torpedo shape with rounded finials that you're used to seeing with many Pilot pens. At first look, the NS looks a bit distorted because it's 'different' from the rest - kind of weird how you get used to a certain design style over time.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The trim of the NS is quite different from the other Custom pens, too. The center band on Pilot pens usually gets wider, the more expensive the pen. On the Custom NS however, the center band is a very wide single (instead of double) ring and extends all the way to the cap edge. 
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The barrel lacks an ornamental ring, but both cap and barrel finial are finished with a small metal insert. The cap finial has a blue dot in it -leftover from the highly coveted Pilot M90 of yore, perhaps?- that I think looks a bit out of place on this red colorway.

UPDATE #2 (I really should've read the Pilot website before I wrote this review!): To quote Pilot: "The cap finial has blue parts that resemble the sea, and is designed with the hope that the heart that cares for someone will be connected without interruption as if the river were connected to the sea."

Speaking of colorways: the NS is available in a nice range of opaque colors (dark and light blue, beige, red or black) that are not often seen on Pilot pens.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
Platinum Procyon, Pilot Custom 74, Pilot Custom 743, Pilot Custom NS, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
The thing that attracted me most to the NS is its size. The Pilot Custom range goes pretty much from small to large when you go up in price... but the NS is again an odd one out. With its 14.4 cm (5,67") length, it's a hair longer than the more expensive Custom 74 and considerably longer than the Custom 91 and 92. Uncapped it's a respectable 12,6 cm (5,0") in length. I feel like the NS is a good-sized pen for everyday use, whereas I always found the Custom 92 a bit on the short side. The plastic construction keeps the overall weight down. The construction feels solid, mainly due to the metal trims.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The one thing you can always rely on with Pilot pens is their excellent writing comfort. The section design is pretty much always the same on all of their pens, yet of all Pilot pens I had on hand, the NS had a noticeably longer section. It's a comfortable pen to use, in part due to the very unobtrusive threads right behind the section. 
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The NS comes equipped with the Con-40 converter, which is so bad that I'd honestly rather stick to refilling cartridges with a syringe. Luckily it does fit the much better Con-70, but you'll have to buy it separately.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The nib is a steel size 5 (the same as on the Custom 92 and 74) and aesthetically shares the exact same design as the more expensive gold nibs. Sizewise, it feels a bit out of place on a pen this large. The performance is exactly where you'd expect it from a Pilot pen - consistency is definitely a key strength of Pilot's nibs. The ink flow is average but never feels dry, and the ink flow is as consistent as it gets. The medium nib is smooth and lays down a line that is pretty true to the average western medium. If anything, it's perhaps a bit bland and characterless. On the flip side, as far as reliability goes this is not a bad choice.
REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN
The Pilot Custom NS is an all-round good pen. The design is classic Pilot, but with a colorful twist. It performs the way you'd expect a Pilot pen to perform: a solid, workhorse pen. A lot of positives...

But why would you buy one? In Japan, it retails for around 80-90$, but here in Europe that price goes up to 100€ and in the US it's a ridiculous 140$. On the European market, the price sort of makes sense because it's still a good bit cheaper than the gold-nibbed Custom 74 and 92. If you're buying outside the EU though, the price jump towards a gold nib is too small to even consider the NS as a valid option. Also compared to pens from other brands, I'd say the NS feels a bit bland for the relatively high price you pay. You can't really go wrong with it, but unless you're really set on the Custom NS, I think there are better options out there.

So maybe that's the reason why you're not hearing more about the Pilot Custom NS?
This product was sent to me by Casa Della Stilografica 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: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN