Wednesday, December 4, 2019

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2019

Holiday Gift Guide for (fountain) pen enthusiasts 2019
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.

      Monday, November 18, 2019

      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO

      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      I've basically been all over Ensso's products ever since I got acquainted with their fantastic Piuma fountain pens and have been a huge fanboy ever since. However, I really never looked much beyond the Piuma and the XS minimalist pocket fountain pen until now. 
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      A completely different product in the catalog of the USA-based design studio is the Ensso Pen Uno. Not a fountain pen this time around, but a gel pen based on the Pilot Hi-Tec C refill. It was actually Ensso's first pen project back in the day, and without a doubt the most unique product they make. In my last order from them, Carlo (the man behind the brand) included this Pen Uno in raw aluminium for me to review - so here we go!
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      The Pen uno is an oddball pen. It almost looks like a modernist take on Harry Potter's magic wand, not like something you'd write with. The super-sleek cylindrical aluminium tube consists of just two major pieces: a thin, long rod and a short, slightly wider cylinder at the base of the pen. Minimal products continue to fascinate me through their simplicity. I can't say I'm a minimalist at heart (I may be a bit of a hoarder...), but the design style really speaks to me. Ensso generally knows their way around minimal product design quite well, with clean lines, uncluttered and precisely machined. That's no different with the Pen Uno, this pen is about as barebones as it gets.

      The Pen Uno is an all-aluminium pen. It's available in a bunch of anodized finishes, as well as this limited production run in raw, untreated aluminium. A limited edition in solid brass is also available (for the time being), which will add some heft to this thin and compact pen.
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      The Parker-style refill gives a good idea of how thin this pen really is!
      The mechanism on how to use the pen, basically IS the pen. Twist the wider grip section and it slides down over the barrel like a nut on a bolt, revealing the needlepoint tip of the Pilot Hi-Tec C refill. It takes A BUNCH of twists to fully move the section down (there is a positive stop when it reaches the end), so it takes a while if you'd open it like you would any twist cap pen. The real (and much faster!) way to open and close the Pen Uno is to give the section a firm flick of the thumb and watch it spin up or down on itself. I couldn't figure out how to do this until after a few days of using the pen. But after a while, it just worked. Perhaps the threads just needed some breaking in? It's like a bolt-action pen: once you get the hang of it, it's really fun to use. Hand this pen to a random person, and I doubt they'll figure out how to use it.
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      L to R: Blackwing pencil, Modern Fuel pencil, Tactile Turn Glider, Ensso Pen Uno, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000.
      The Pen Uno has a fairly 'normal' length of 13cm (5.12"), but normal ends there. At just 5.3mm (0.23") thick around the 'barrel' (if you can even call it that), Ensso claims it to be (one of) the thinnest pens in production, which is not at all hard to believe. The barrel on itself would be almost unusable, so that's where the grip section comes in with a more manageable 9.5mm wide. 

      Manageable is relative of course. We're talking barely the thickness of a standard wood cased pencil, so needless to say that if thin pens are not your game, the Pen Uno probably won't blow you away. It didn't blow me away either but never felt uncomfortable to use, even when I was taking notes in class. The lightweight aluminium construction (just 10g total) makes the writing experience fatigue-free.
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      Ironically, when I went to photograph this pen I noticed the refill had run out, perfectly illustrating what I don't like about the Pen Uno!
      Unfortunately, a thin pen comes with the restriction of using an even thinner refill. This comes in the form of a Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto refill, which is a thin multi-pen type of refill. The obvious issue with this kind of refill is of course that it doesn't last awfully long.
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      The Pilot Hi-Tec-C is a really unique type of refill and has a cult following because of the precise and crisp fine needlepoint tip. The 0.5mm tip size (or the 0.4mm variant that is supplied with the pen) offers a good balance between a fine line and ease of use (I find that the ultra-fine Hi-Tec C refills can sometimes be a bit finicky to use). The gel ink flows smoothly and is crisp and dark. 
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO
      The Ensso Pen Uno is a peculiar but clever piece of design that is very well made (a constant across all Ensso products). Sure, the slender profile may not be THE most comfortable ever, and the tiny refills are a bit limiting when you plan to use it intensively. But this pen is a conversation starter for sure, and a really cool pen to fidget with. At 45$ the Pen Uno is a fun pen to try without breaking the bank, and it would make for a great gift! PS: It's also available as a mechanical pencil.
      Ensso
      This product was sent to me by Ensso 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, purchases made with the discount code from this sponsor are not affiliated.
      REVIEW: ENSSO PEN UNO

      Saturday, November 9, 2019

      FOUNTAIN PEN DAY GIVEAWAY WINNER!

      FPD 2019 giveaway winner
      Our FPD 2019 giveaway has officially ended! Who will take home a surprise care package including a one-of-a-kind Kaweco Skyline Sport, and a bottle of Dutch Pen Show exclusive ink?

      The winner, as chosen by the Random number generator: 

      Ratan
      (@theoneinyellow)

      a Rafflecopter giveaway


      Thanks again for all the support, and thanks for entering the giveaway! Didn't win this time, or missed out on the giveaway? Don't worry, there will of course be more giveaways in the future! Always stay up-to-date on current giveaways and new blog posts by following The Pencilcase Blog on INSTAGRAMTWITTERFACEBOOK or subscribe to the NEWSLETTER!