Sunday, June 23, 2019

PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)

PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
If you feel like there haven't been nearly as many new posts and reviews here lately, you're absolutely right! I'm still unfortunately very much working my way through my (hopefully) last ever exam period. But last week, smack dab in the middle of my exams, there was an event that I simply couldn't pass up on: the first 'Dutch Pen Show' in Utrecht! So I got my priorities straight, crammed five days of studying into three, and went on a short trip to the Netherlands to catch a glimpse of this completely new pen show! (#priorities... because exams can wait, right?)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
The show was organised by two members of the dutch FPNL community, Chaïm and Christa. The show took place in a brand new hotel in Utrecht, which is a fairly centrally located city in the Netherlands.
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Joost from Appelboom was there and had brought along some dangerously good deals on his table. I kind of regret not picking up the Pineider honeycomb for half off! Oh well...
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
The peeps from Appelboom also brought a piece of Kaweco equipment with them for you to create your own custom Kaweco sport - Neat!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Appelboom's resident nibmeister Annabelle Hiller was seated right next to their table and had her fair share of work fixing dropped nibs and poor writers into marvellous nibbages!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
John Sorrowka preferred to stay anonymous, but I was allowed to fotograph the hands of the master. Splendid guy with an incredible wit, while also grinding a beast of a cursive italic on one of my Pelikan M800 nibs that I brought along! Believe it or not, this is my first-ever professional custom nib grind!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Another first encounter with penmaker John Twiss. Some amazing handmade beauties on his table, and very reasonably priced too (kinda regret passing up on one).
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
This Twiss pen caught my eye: striped acrylic cut and glued in a radial fashion so the stripes go all the way around the barrel. Very cool!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Armando Simoni Club (which is actually a collection of brands like Wahl-Eversharp, ASC, Molteni, Leonardo Officina Italiana and brought their A-game with the full array of Wahl-Eversharp Decobands, and the new ASC Bologna Extra Afrika. I may or may not have one of those Wahl-Eversharps coming to me in the near future...
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
The new ASC Bologna Extra Afrika. Very nice material, prettier in real life than I expected.
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Sarj was his ever-joyful self (how could you not be happy with this many pens, right?) He told me he had some back pains, but that's what you get when you bring about a dozen of suitcases full of pens Sarj! I was lucky to have some time to chat with him during a calmer moment. Sarj is such an incredibly friendly chap, even though I have never bought anything from him (My self-control is incredible!).
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Phoenix laquer art was also present at the show. What can I say? This brand is extra, everything about it is extra, down to the beautiful magnifying glass that you can use to drool over the amazing handpainted details of the pens I can probably never afford.
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Papier & Stift came over from Germany and brought ALL THE INKS. This poor chap had the impossible task of organising all of those (They brought the Sailor Ink Studio inks, so you just know he had a mental breakdown trying to organise those!).
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Then there were these two friendly looking peeps: Dennis and Rik from La Couronne Du Comte. They brought the usual great deals as well of course! Also got to see the new Pelikan Dunes blue: kinda meh about this special edition to be honest. My wallet thanks Pelikan for releasing too many blue special ed
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Had a nice chat with the people from Maxpens and for the first time in my life I was truly captivated by Montblanc pens. They had some truly amazing vintage and prototype Montblanc pens on display. Expensive as hell, but damn they were pretty!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Arco Montblancs, because why not!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
More handmade pens in the form of Corpus Woodworks. Not immediately my cup of tea to be honest, but damn impressive craftsmanship nonetheless!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Yunus of Galen Leather came all the way from Turkey, and brought a ton of their beautiful leathery goodness! Zeynep from Write To Me Often had come along to help manage the table. Both extremely friendly people and it was great meeting them in real life. My father bought the new 40-pen collector case, so I'll kindly loan it (hehe) and do a review of it very soon...
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
Scrittura Elegante is doing a closeout sale of all their writing-related products. Great deals on inks and pens, definitely worth checking out if you're still looking for a good deal!
PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT)
And of course there were giveaways, lots of giveaways! Over 100 bottles of show-exclusive Robert Oster 'Nederland's Eerste' ink were graciously given away to visitors, and were personally handed out by Patrick from Robert Oster! This photo was taken over by the buy&sell table, where one could bring in pens to have on display and maybe make a few bucks. I made use of the service and think it's a brilliant idea. Didn't have to worry about the sales and made some money at the end of the day! Great initiative and undoubtedly a lot of work for show organizers Chaim and Christa! - Thanks for a great show guys! See you next year (Save the date: June 7th 2020)!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

REVIEW: TACTILE TURN GIST 2.0 FOUNTAIN PEN

Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Deadlines here, deadlines there... Sorry for the radio silence but it's been a little crazy the past few weeks, hence the lack of new reviews. Anyway, things are getting somewhat back to normal finally, so I it's about high time for another review, right?

I think it's no secret that I've become a fan of Tactile Turn products. FAST. It all started when I bought a titanium Gist fountain pen second hand from Mike at The Clicky Post. I had never been absolutely on board with the concept of the original Gist. It was designed to be a semi-pocket sized pen that needs to be posted to reach its full potential and I usually prefer full-sized pens. But the price was right, so I caved. As my prejudice often turns out wrong, the Gist managed to impress me, and I got a taste for more. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Not much later, Will at Tactile Turn delivered with the new and improved Gist 2.0. It's the same but different. The Gist grew up, and is no longer the pocket-ish pen that it used to be - much to my liking of course. I immediately ordered a couple (because ordering just one pen is for sane people), and Will graciously sent the other finishes along for me to check out - Thanks Will!
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Original version below, Gist 2.0 above
Designwise, all they did was quite literally stretch out the cap and barrel a bit. The overall shape and style is still the same quite Lamy 2000-esque, tapered flattop. In fact, put this (especially the black delrin version) next to a lamy 2000, and the resemblance is certainly there (there are of course worse pens to draw inspiration from, IMHO). The design is simple but not quite as minimal as metal pens can sometimes be (like my benchmarks, the Ensso Piuma and Namisu Nova). The Gist's design is accentuated by the unusual cap-to-barrel ratio. The cap is rather long, which gives the pen a balanced appearance.

Where the original came in a wide selection of material and combinations, version 2.0 has a less extensive selection to choose from, supposedly to keep production more straightforward. Materials like stainless steel, damascus and various mix-and-match combinations where dropped, but you still get a choice between white, black/white and black delrin, brass, copper and titanium. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
The original Gist certainly had some kinks that I'm glad to say were -quite literally- smoothed out in version 2. Most noticeable is Tactile Turn's trademark knurled finish. The original had a very deeply ridged texture which feels kind of strange and extremely 'toothy' in the hand. Version 2.0 incorporates the same fine spiral texture as all other current TT products, which feels less sharp yet still offers plenty of grip. Another element that you'll probably recognize from other Tactile Turn products is the sturdy stainless steel clip, which is available in both tumbled steel and black coated finish for the Gist.

My biggest gripe with the original Gist are the threads. They are very sharply cut, which especially on the edge of the cap made it to a point where you can actually cut yourself on them. The threads were also quite tricky to align, where they would often catch when you don't align the cap just right. Version two has this figured out; not only is the edge of the cap now nicely flat and no longer sharp, the threads itself are cut differently so that they don't catch nearly as often. The last difference I could tell is purely an aesthetic one, where they added more pronounced chamfered edges to the cap and barrel finial.
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
All in all, the Gist 2.0 just looks more finished and  thought through. And with these small quirks out of the picture, it's a more pleasant pen to use as well.

There still one issue that I could find though, and that's the inner cap. TT decided to add a small plastic ring inside the cap to aid with posting the cap (so you don't damage the finish on the metal pens), but it sometimes snags on the nib when you cap and uncap the pen. This seems to be a tolerance issue caused by some Bock nibs having slightly wider shoulders than others, making them snag on the inner cap. In any case, Will let me know that he updated the inner caps to deal with this variation, so it should no longer be an issue. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
L to R: Namisu Nova, Ensso Piuma, Tactile Turn Mover, Tactile Turn Gist and Gist 2.0, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
As I said, the Gist grew a bit compared to its predecessor, and is now a comfortable 13.7 cm long (5.4") when capped, and 12.5 cm (4.9") uncapped. It's still not an overly large pen, but I'd now consider it more of a normal sized pen. I can easily get away with using it unposted (even though you could post if you want), where I find the original Gist just a tad short for that. In terms of weight there's something for everyone: the delrin comes in just shy of 20 g, the titanium version is a substantial 45 g, and copper and brass are downright heavy at around 80 g each.
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
Despite being a metal pen (well, unless you choose the delrin finish of course!), it scores high in the comfort department. The section is long, has a gentle taper and provides plenty of grip through the machined texture. The block threads sit almost completely flush in between the section and barrel. They are ever so slightly sharp to the touch, but never felt too intrusive in my grip.

The nibs are standard Bock issue, which is absolutely fine by me. I know there has been more than one occasion where Bock has missed the ball with quality control. Nevertheless, I still generally like them better than JoWo nibs, which I think has at least something to do with the slight springy character they offer (and the option for titanium nibs if you want something closer to semi-flex). For what it's worth, all four nibs I received worked perfectly fine out of the box. I was especially impressed by the 1.1 untipped stub, which I have had little experience with until now. It's a nicely rounded stub and comes very smooth out of the box, with a pleasantly wet ink flow. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
I do find that Bock nibs generally benefit from a wet ink, even though they usually provide a decent flow as-is. For example, I regularly pair them up with a KWZ ink, which provides a very heavy and smooth flow. Worth noting is that the Gist 2.0 now accepts full-sized converters which can hold a bit more ink. Admittedly, the difference in ink capacity isn't huge, but every improvement is welcome I'd say.

If you're not keen on fountain pens, TT now also offers the Gist as a capped rollerball pen, built around the same Pilot G2 refill that they use in all their pens. You can also buy the rollerball grip section separately for anywhere between 15$ and 35$ (depending on the material), so you can swap between writing styles. 
Review: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen
The Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 hits a lot of sweet spots for me, and from my experience it's a huge step forward from the original version. I think Will and his team generally do an excellent job on the design of their products, striking a good balance between minimal and industrial looks with a very tangible character -this pen is no different in that regard. Besides design, the Gist feels solidly built and comes in plenty of material options to choose from. Especially for people that don't like metal pens, the delrin versions are a very welcome option. 

The price point on these is a bit higher compared to the rest of Tactile Turn's products. Delrin versions start at 99$, brass and copper come in at 119$ and 139$ respectively, and the titanium version goes for 219$. For the most part, those prices are still very competitive with similar products from other brands out there. Only the titanium version seems a bit on the expensive side compared to the rest. Especially because TT usually offers their other titanium products for a relatively low price, I don't quite see how the titanium Gist in particular demands such a high premium.

NOTE: This product was provided in part by Tactile Turn, 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: Tactile Turn Gist 2.0 fountain pen

Sunday, May 19, 2019

REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
Montegrappa - despite being a high-end luxury brand very similarly structured to the likes of Montblanc or Visconti - seems to be mostly known for either their "more affordable" (certainly a term you should use with a grain of salt) products in the 200-400$ range (like the Fortuna, the Game Of Throne collection, the Monte Grappa or even the latest Elmo...), or their extravagantly over-the-top limited editions (looking at you, Chaos). But one pen that always spoke to me a great deal sits somewhere in between: their flagship fountain pen, the Montegrappa Extra.
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
Being the Italian brand's top of the line production pen, the Extra model comfortably resides in the 1000$ (and up) range and is therefore - quite understandably - not immediately the most accessible to a wide audience. I also actually never get around to trying one out for myself. However, Montegrappa recently offered the opportunity to test out their latest addition to the Extra product line: the Montegrappa Extra Custom.
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
That name already gives away the cool part: the Extra Custom is not just an off-the-shelves luxury pen, it's a complete customizing service called the "Configuratore". The entire concept is simple. So simple actually, that I now wonder why it took so long for a brand to come up with something like this (to my knowledge there's nothing comparable out there, definitely not with the same degree of customisation)! 
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
Montegrappa's Configuratore website (from: www.montegrappa.com)
Here's how it works: head to Montegrappa's Configuratore website, and you'll be greeted with an online platform in which you can mix and match a host of materials and finishes on 8 different parts of the Montegrappa Extra fountain pen or rollerball. Choices range from the materials on cap, section, barrel and piston knob, to the emblem on the cap finial or a gemstone on the clip. 

When you settle on a configuration (It's not easy to choose!), Montegrappa's team assembles your custom pen and sends it to you within 2 weeks. The pen comes packaged in a beautiful large wooden box, accompanied by a bottle of Montegrappa ink. The box has a metal plaque on the lid with your name engraved on it. They even accompany it with a polaroid of the craftsman working on your very pen. If one thing, the entire experience is definitely worthy of a four figure $ pen! 

I'd tell you there's a lot of options, but that probably doesn't mean much so I unleashed my inner geek (heck, I'm always a geek) and did some maths: There are 2.802.470.400 possible combinations, that's not counting the option to engrave your initials on the center band, the choice between fountain pen or rollerball, and of course the full range of nib options between extra fine and double broad!

[cue jaw drop]

That's right! Close to 3-freaking-BILLION combinations to piece together, so I'm pretty certain you'll find at least one that you'll truly love. 
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
Now having such a wide range of options doesn't mean every one of those 3 billion will turn out great... in fact it's fairly easy to go bonkers and make it look somewhat gaudy (or very gaudy). On top of that, a lot of the more exotic materials will cost you a pretty penny. Nevertheless, you have the possibility to do whatever you want, which is nice.

Of course you can also do things my way and keep it simple. You could argue I'm boring for sticking with a fairly basic configuration and I honestly can't even blame you! But there's a good reason why I stuck to a simple combination of Montegrappa's Shiny Lines celluloid with sterling silver trim, and that's to show that the Extra Custom also makes for an excellent opportunity to easily get your hands on one of Montegrappa's exclusive celluloids. 
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
More and more brands are steadily moving away from celluloid, as the production process is dangerously combustible and time consuming. Remaining stock is already being used quite sparingly and almost exclusively for special editions. For all we know, there may come a time where stock of these exquisite materials runs out (as has already happened with Omas celluloids, for example). So it's nice to see Montegrappa go the other way and give their customers access to all the different materials. With that reasoning in mind, I went with their fantastic silver-grey Shiny Lines celluloid, which also spoke to me because of its' resemblance to the legendary Omas Arco Bronze! I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
The design of the Extra Custom has always been on my radar. It's definitely one of Montegrappa's simpler and more subdued pens. The stout, bulky flattop shape provides an excellent canvas to experiment with (combinations of) exotic materials like wood, hand-engraved precious metals, celluloids or even mammoth ivory (!) as you please. The simple design is accentuated by a curvy clip and wide center band. In true Montegrappa style, all metal trims come in solid sterling silver, so you definitely get your dose of luxury. If that's not enough, you can upgrade most - if not all - parts to gold-plated vermeil or even solid gold with hand-etched designs. But with prices easily jumping up in the 20k (!) regions I doubt if those options are very realistic, even for the seasoned collectors among us.
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Pelikan Souverän M805, Visconti Homo Sapiens Oversize, Montblanc 149, ASC Bologna Extra, Montegrappa Extra Custom, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
For a flagship pen, I expected the Extra to be a sizeable piece, but it turns out I was wrong. Measuring only 13.8 cm (5.4") and with a maximum diameter of 1.7 cm (0.7"), the Extra is a chubby, rather compact pen. Uncapped it measures 12.7 cm (5"), which - in my opinion - is long enough but definitely not large by any means. Obviously the final weight depends on the materials you choose. But as a reference, the pen I created is almost completely celluloid and already weighs a hefty 44g due to the extensive sterling silver trim.
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
The Extra Custom scores high marks on comfort for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the grip has a nice, gently concave shape, and you can opt for a different material if metal sections are not your thing. Behind the section are quite possibly the smoothest threads ever, which is definitely a strong suit of many higher-end Montegrappa pens. The threads are rounded and shallow, which makes them unobtrusive and also gives a buttery smooth capping-uncapping action. The relatively short size of the Extra when uncapped may be an issue for some people, although I find it just long enough. The cap can be posted, but adds a considerable backweight to the pen (again, depending on the materials you choose). 
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
The Extra is fueled by a pretty neat differential piston filling system. What that means is that it fills just like any piston filler, by twisting the piston knob at the back. But in contrast to most piston fillers, the knob does not extend and retract while turning it. Montegrappa says this helps you to always find an orientation in which the material on the piston knob aligns with the barrel, which is a nice detail (all celluloid parts do indeed always line up perfectly!). I did find that the mechanism is rather stiff, probably to prevent accidentally rotating it. The Extra does not have an ink window, so you're left guessing how much ink is inside.
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
Under the hood, Montegrappa's flagship is equipped with a flagship-worthy nib that's recessed a bit inside the section. This makes it visually appear a bit smaller, although the width still indicates that it's indeed a large #8 variant. Montegrappa's trademark geometrical octagon pattern returns in the nib imprint, providing a clean and intricate look to the nib. Another benefit of the Configuratore is that you get instant access to their entire catalog of nib sizes: EF, F, M, B, BB and Stub, some of which aren't generally available from retailers (especially the BB and Stub).
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
Seeing a stock BB always brings a smile to my face, so I obviously had to go with that. It's definitely not the widest nib I've ever come across, I'd say this BB lays down a line that's typical for a Western broad. The large ebonite feed provides an excellent consistent flow that I'd describe as medium-wet. The nib is very smooth with just the slightest hint of feedback (definitely way less feedback than on other Montegrappa pens I've used) so it's not glassy smooth. There's occasionally a slight hard start when you first pick up the pen, but flow picks up right after that first stroke, a common issue with broader nibs. I expected the large #8 nib to offer a slight amount of bounce, but it's actually stiff-as-nails. Overall it's a very pleasant and well-tuned nib that offers a balanced, consistent performance.
REVIEW: MONTEGRAPPA EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN
At the end of the day, the premium for the Montegrappa Extra Custom built in their Configuratore is about 300$ over a production version of the 'stock' Extra fountain pen, so yes, you certainly pay for the possibilities it offers and the service that comes along with it. Price is a hurdle that's hard to ignore, and at 1400$ or up you can question wether or not a pen can actually be worth THAT much. 

How I see it, a high-end luxury pricetag should yield something unique or special in return for it to be worth a premium like that (and even then, 'worth' is of course always a matter of personal opinion). In that regard, I think Montegrappa certainly delivers just that 'something special' with the Extra Custom. It's a blank canvas ready to become your own masterpiece, or as Montegrappa puts it: 'The most interesting pen in the world'! 

In a day and age where everything is digitized and automated, the kind of custom aspect that Montegappa's Configuratore offers, could be the next big thing that sets products apart in our very specialized and niche market. I'm certainly hoping this is something we'll see more brands do in the future...

NOTE: This product was provided by Montegrappa, 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 EXTRA CUSTOM FOUNTAIN PEN