Tuesday, January 18, 2022

REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
Oh boy, have I been eyeing Onoto pens for a loooong time, before finally pulling the trigger on this Onoto Magna Sequoyah LE last year! I'm kicking myself for not getting one sooner because these pens are everything they're hyped up to be, and then some... Although 'hype' is perhaps not the right word to use with Onoto, because they actually seem quite underrepresented within our community. As with other UK-based brands -like Conway Stewart or Yard-O-Led- Onoto seems to live somewhat in the shadows of the 'traditional' German, Italian or Japanese companies. It's anyone's guess as to why that is. But one thing is for sure, it definitely has nothing to do with the quality of their products, because Onoto certainly delivers in that regard!
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
Perhaps not coincidental, those three UK-based brands mentioned above have one thing in common: they all embody -what I'd consider- traditional British fountain pen design. Perhaps this more classic and conservative approach to fountain pen design might explain why they aren't more prominently represented on the market? But of course, that's down to personal taste. I, for one, really appreciate the display of Onoto's heritage within their products. 
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
I love the stylized, modern-looking Onoto monogram in the sterling silver cap finial!
Talking about heritage: the Onoto Magna takes quite accurately after its vintage relative namesake. It's a fairly straightforward and simple flattop design, accentuated by sterling silver appointments. Like most other British brands, Onoto proudly displays their heritage and experience with sterling silver manufacture, which shines through -literally- on the precise details of the trim found on this pen. Every metal piece is made of silver: cap and barrel finials, the three cap rings, and a sterling silver clip with a raised chevron pattern. The silver appointments add a level of intricacy to the Magna's design, but are tastefully done and don't distract from the beautiful material this pen is made of.
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
While there's a myriad of choice in finishes for the Onoto Magna -from subtle and traditional solid color acrylics, to more colorful materials and even guilloché-engraved finishes-, for me this limited edition (200 pieces) 'Sequoyah' finish stands out as one of the most spectacular and eye-catching of them all. This was the pen I knew I had to have, from the moment I first laid eyes on it! 

The pen is named after a Native American called 'Sequoyah', who established a written form of the Cherokee language. The material of the pen is inspired by the similarly-named Sequoia tree. The woodgrain-like brown acrylic is absolutely sublime. It has a surprising amount of shimmer in the warm, brown swirls, interlaced with dark streaks of solid black resin. The end result is a pen that genuinely looks like it's made from a piece of burlwood. 
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
The warm tone of the acrylic balances nicely against the sterling silver trims when the pen first arrives. But it doesn't take too long before a strong brown-ish patina (tarnish) begins to develop on the silver. While you can of course polish most of the trims with a jeweler's cloth to bring them back to shiny silver, it's not so easy to do so with the cap finial due to its deep texture and crisp edges. Therefore, it seems to me that the best option is just to let the material do its thing, with the patina bringing a very vintage-esque feeling to the pen.
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Montblanc 149, Conway Stewart Churchill, Onoto Magna Sequoyah, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
The Magna is an average-to-large pen, measuring 14 cm (5.53") closed - about the size of a Pelikan M800. I suppose the name 'Magna' (great) has more historical meaning than it is relevant on these current-day pens. With an uncapped length of 13.2 cm (5.19") it's a very decent size to use unposted. The cap can post if you really want to, but it makes for a considerably large 16.6 cm (6.54") pen.
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
Between this one and the few Onotos I briefly tried over the years, I've been consistently impressed with the absolutely impeccable build quality and finishing, as well as the excellent writing comfort they have to offer. The section has a comfortable diameter (12.5mm/ 0.49" at the back) with a straight taper towards the nib (down to 10mm/ 0.4"). The section transitions almost seamlessly into the barrel, where a set of rather shallow threads is the only thing that could possibly obstruct your grip - but it doesn't, because they're so well-finished. 
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
As a rather unique feature to finetune the writing comfort of the Magna, Onoto offers two weight options for the Magna pens, with an optional brass barrel, insert adding 7 grams to the 25 of the base version. I found my 25-gram version to be perfectly balanced in the hand, and light enough as to not cause any fatigue while writing. That said, because I do tend to lean towards heavier pens, I am curious to try out the 32g option at some point.
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
The Magna Sequoyah (and other versions of the Magna) fills using a standard international converter. Fine by me, though perhaps a bit plebeian on a pen as nice as this? There was once an option to upgrade to a plunger-filler I thought, but that no longer seems to be the case when I look at the Onoto site.
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
Another highlight (although if I'm honest, most aspects of this pen are highlights) of the Onoto Magna is the nib. I don't think they produce their own nibs in-house (it looks like a Schmidt nib unit?), but whatever they do, they do it right. The #6 (in Onoto numbers it's a #7 size) 18k gold nibs sits on a plastic feed that delivers a rich flow of ink, and it does so with flawless consistency. I went for a fine nib on the Sequoyah, and it's definitely a beefy western fine, so you might want to step down at least a size if you don't like your nibs to run wider. 
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
The fine nib on my pen is fantastically smooth and perfectly set up out of the box (and from what I can recall, so were the steel and gold nibs I tried in the past). The nib has a slight bit of bounce to it with normal writing pressure, but no real line variation to speak of. Particularly of note is that the nib doesn't seem to dry out, ever. I've had this pen inked up continuously for almost a year now, and there were times when it wasn't used for months, yet it always picked right up. 
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
I feel like I've been raving about this pen non-stop, but I can't help myself, it's simply THAT good! Nonetheless, to round up this review I did also find a couple minor quirks that are worth noting, though not particularly deal-breaking for me: For starters, the clip is pointy... a bit too pointy! I appreciate the overall shape and design, but the tip could've been rounded off just a bit more to prevent it from feeling sharp to the touch. I also fear it could damage fabrics if you clip it to a pocket a bit too incautiously. The second remark is one I've also read on Anthony's review of the Magna (UKFountainpens): the cap takes almost 3.5 full turns to unscrew. I'm not typically one to complain about this, but more than 3 turns really is quite a lot!
REVIEW: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN
It took me a while, but I'm glad I finally pulled the trigger on an Onoto. The Onoto Magna Sequoyah manages to do so many things right, making for a fantastic all-around package. Beautiful burlwood-like acrylic, stunning sterling silver details, flawless construction, A+ writing comfort, and a perfectly tuned nib out of the box. It ticks all the boxes for me. 

The price of all that? A not-so-unreasonable 640€ (600$ without VAT for non-EU customers,  at La Couronne Du Comte. Use our discount code 'penthusiast' for 10% off!). I think that's a fair and competitive price for the complete package that the Onoto Magna has to offer. Also, note that that is the price for the 18k gold-nibbed version. On the Onoto website, you also have the option for a steel-nibbed version for 430€ (but the gold nib is where it's at, if you ask me!).
https://www.lacouronneducomte.com/
Note: La Couronne Du Comte is a sponsor of this site. I received a discount on this purchase, which enabled me to 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: ONOTO MAGNA SEQUOYAH FOUNTAIN PEN

Monday, December 20, 2021

REVIEW: NEW PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
As expected, the reintroduction of the Parker 51 caused quite a stir within the community. It took me quite a while to get my thoughts about it in line, but I think -perhaps somewhat unexpectedly- my overall impression of the new version is quite a bit more positive than you might expect. I actually think it's a pretty successful hommage to the original in many (not all) ways. This modern version is more than capable of holding its own, and I think it was to be expected that it wouldn't just be a carbon copy of the vintage model. In fact, I'd even go out on a limb and say that I really like and even prefer some of the changes Parker made in the modern version. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Vintage P51 gold-filled, modern P51 Deluxe, Vintage P51 'Lustraloy', modern P51
Designwise, Parker stayed pretty true to the original. Between the standard version with brushed steel cap, and the 'Deluxe' with gold-plated details, the designs perfectly mimic the two vintage P51 (both aerometrics) I own: one with guilloche gold-filled cap and one with the 'Lustraloy' brushed steel cap. Especially from afar, you'd be forgiven for not being able to distinguish between the old and new. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
Modern Parker 51 on the left, the slightly shorter vintage P51 on the right.
There are some things that give it away, though: the dimensions didn't change too much, but the new 51 did get ever so slightly longer. The barrel takes up all of that extra length, creating a different cap-to-body ratio. This longer barrel gives the impression of a much larger pen, even though in reality it's not that big of a difference. 

The second dead-giveaway is the clip, which is now the more modern arrow interpretation that Parker uses on most of their current pens. I have to admit it's not as nice as the vintage arrow, and I find that the vintage-inspired design of the 51 would've warranted an equally vintage-inspired clip to go along with it. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
One of the major differences between the original and new 51 is the switch towards a threaded cap. Called almost a blasphemy by some, I actually think it's an improvement over the original. At least in the condition that original vintage P51's are in at this point -often well-used throughout the years- I'm not a particularly big fan of how the clutch-style cap works. On both my vintage pens, the cap feels mushy and it's hard to tell if it clicked on properly or not. The screw-cap at least leaves that guessing work out of the equation, and you can be certain that it's always on securely. No risk of accidental uncapping and an inky mess. As an aesthetic nod to the original design, a metal ring just below the threads mimics the original clutch ring of the vintage 51. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
A vintage P51 on the left and the modern version on the right
Despite the cap finial of the modern P51 really just being a single part, the stepped shape and 'jewel' insert somewhat recreates the look of the vintage. More precisely, it's inspired by the first generations of the Parker 51. The metal 'jewel' finial is actually surprisingly historically correct, as the very first P51's came with an aluminum jewe! 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Parker IM, vintage Parker 51, modern P51, modern P51 deluxe, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
Of course the original Parker 51 -as with many vintage pens- isn't a terribly large pen. The modern 51 measures 14 cm (5.51") when capped, which is about 4 mm longer than the vintage. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
When uncapped, the modern Parker 51 (Left) is a bit shorter than its vintage counterpart!
Surprisingly, the roles are reversed when uncapped: here, the modern P51 is 4 mm shorter, coming in at just 12,3 cm (4.84"). Though of course, the hooded nib allows you to grip the P51 much closer towards the front, so it remains usable unposted. For those that do like a slightly longer pen, just like its vintage counterpart, the new P51 posts very securely and balanced. The modern P51 has a comfortable section diameter around 10 mm where you hold it, but it is of course still a rather skinny pen for modern standards. The entire pen is lightweight, coming in at around 20 grams total. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
Top: the modern P51 takes a regular Parker converter, Bottom: a vintage P51 aerometric captured converter.
The c/c filling system was obviously to be expected. Parker hasn't been doing aerometric-style (or for that matter, Vacumatic pump-filler) mechanisms for years at this point. As their brand name positions them in the market to cater towards a wide audience, not just the die-hard enthusiasts, it makes sense that they put their money on c/c filling systems. Not that I think cartridges or converters should be seen as a lesser option, as they remain a very accessible and practical option for everyday use. 

What I DO find a really bad oversight on Parker's end, is that a pen this price really should come with a converter included in the box. As it stands now, only the Deluxe version gets one as standard. There's really no excuse for not including a converter with a 90€ pen, and then charging a ridiculous 8 to 10 extra euros for one. Rant over.
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
The nib, then. From what I can tell, it does indeed look like the nibs are Parker's standard semi-tubular nibs (and feeds) that were used in the previous iterations of the IM, Vector, Jotter, and some other sub-100$ models. But precisely what nib is being used doesn't really matter that much to me, what matters is how it performs. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
Despite some people's criticism of the new nib not being true to the original design (Left), I don't think the old and new are that dissimilar from a visual perspective. Only the shape of the hood is slightly less pointy on the modern version (Right).
The steel-nibbed standard version is a capable writer, but nothing particular to write home about. It's a stiff nib with a noticeable amount of feedback (though not scratchy). It's a very responsive writer, despite the tipping seemingly having a slight bit of baby's bottom. The gold-nibbed Deluxe version is a slightly different beast though. Despite both test pens having medium nibs, the 18k gold nib writes at least a solid half size wider than the steel one - the steel nib being more true to a western medium IMHO. The gold nib remains stiff due to the hooded construction, but you can still feel the slight softness in the gold alloy despite not getting any line variation out of it. The gold nib is also noticeably smoother, with a more subtle hint of feedback. Where the steel nib is reliable but a bit bland, the gold nib on the Deluxe is much more interesting to write with and even has a slightly stubby tipping shape that offers some line variation.
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
What I did find particularly noticeable, and even a bit bothersome is that both nibs seem to have a particularly fussy and narrow sweet spot in how you rotate the nib. And that effect seems to be magnified by the fact that the hooded nib sort of obstructs your view. So it is sometimes tricky to see the orientation of the nib properly. 

The caps have some interesting air holes embedded in the cap finials, but those don't seem to negatively affect the nib drying out all that much. While you can find a slight hard start from time to time, it never really dries out over longer periods of time, and usually starts right up again. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
The new Parker 51 comes in at 90€ (around 100$), which is a fair price but as I said it should come with a converter included. The gold-nibbed Parker 51 Deluxe goes for 259€, which is a substantial premium for a gold nib and a slightly more elaborately finished cap. However, the 18k nib does add a lot to the writing experience. My gut feeling says that the Deluxe version would be a better deal around the 200€ mark, where it could compete with the Lamy 2000 as a more classic-styled alternative. 

This product was sent to me by Parker 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.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL & IRIS REVIEW


ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

As with so many hobbies, most things within the writing community aren't about making sensible financial decisions. Let's be honest, it's quite easy to be tempted into buying (ahem, hoarding) all kinds of pens, pencils, desk accessories, and gadgets that nobody really needs... but everybody wants! The two desk accessories by Makers Cabinet we'll be looking at, certainly categorize as such. I can't help but be quite enamored by these nifty tools. 

UK-based Makers Cabinet hit the market somewhere in 2017 (then as 'Brahman Design') and was started by three product design graduates. Aesthetics is the name of the game with Makers Cabinet. You'd think 'form follows function' is out of the door then, but after using the Makers Cabinet Høvel pencil sharpener and Iris compass, the meticulous attention to detail quickly becomes clear.

As aesthetics are a big part of the appeal of the Høvel and Iris, so let's start there...

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

One key element returns throughout the entire product catalog of Makers Cabinet: all of their products are made out of brass! But as much as that ties together their different products, each item still very much brings its own unique look and feel. 

The Hovel - a very minimal, miniature interpretation of a wood planer - is a slick and sleek chunk of brass, with rounded edges and a highly polished finish. The rectangular cutout that houses the blade setup received a lightly sandblasted finish for a subtle contrast, it also has the 'Høvel' logo laser-engraved there.

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

The Iris - a brilliantly overengineered take on the classic circle drawing compass - is quite the opposite in terms of design. Its crisp beveled edges, knurling, and mixture of finishes (machined finish, brushed, and sandblasted) interweave to create a distinctly industrial look and feel. One thing I noticed while using both products, is that the type of brass they use isn't very prone to tarnishing (even though it's not coated), I'm still waiting for the Høvel and Iris to take on a nice vintage appearance. 

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW
The 'Makers Cabinet' and 'Iris' branding only appears when you close the blades of the Iris!

The solid brass construction creates a wonderfully hefty tactile appearance. So much so, that I'm constantly tempted to play with the Høvel as a worry stone... if it wasn't for the blade sticking out of the bottom (not quite so practical as a fidget toy!).

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

No, neither Iris nor Høvel are cheap products by any stretch of the imagination, but it has to be said that the production quality on both is really, really impressive. Machining is precise, assembly and fit and finish is flawless, finishing is cleanly done. I have no remarks, it's as simple as that. 

Especially on the Iris - a rather complex mechanical construction with a lot of moving metal parts - it's extra impressive how everything fits together perfectly and the diaphragm slides open and closed buttery smooth. The only remark I could make is that stainless steel diaphragm blades of the Iris do pick up scuffs from sliding over each other, but that's to be expected with these moving parts.

Let's move on to functionality, because yes, you really are getting more than just a good-looking paperweight for your money!

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW
It doesn't take much practice to get nice and clean sharpening results.

Starting with the Høvel; it has been mocked in the past for its very concept: a plane for a pencil sharpener, why even?!? I must say, I was skeptical as well, and my view aligned with some reviews that stated it's awkward and unnecessarily difficult to use.

Though as soon as I started testing the Høvel myself, I found it surprisingly easy and intuitive to use. That does come with a slight sidenote that I often sharpen pencils with a pocket knife (I'm weird like that), so I do have some practice with unconventional sharpening techniques (that's undoubtedly my weirdest flex ever!). The alignment of the blade - just a millimeter below the plane surface - allows thin curls of wood to be shaved off using minimal pressure. With some practice, you can get straight and clean cuts and even make a nicely symmetrical point onto your pencil. 

The Høvel, just like a knife, gives you more freedom in varying the angle and shape of the pencil tip entirely to your liking, and it can also be used for oddly sized and shaped pencils that don't fit a traditional sharpener. The Høvel comes with a cute tiny package of 10 blades, which is more than enough to keep you sharpening for a while. 

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

One remark I have with the Høvel is that you have to hold it sort of precariously at the very edge to keep your fingers out of the way of your pencil, and the mirror-polished finish is quite slippery. Perhaps it would be useful if they'd add some knurling or texture to the sides of the Høvel. Maybe an idea for a future iteration? 

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

The Iris is probably my favorite of the two tools, and that's mostly due to the incredibly smooth and precise action of the 20-blade diaphragm opening and closing by turning the outer ring. It's very satisfying to play with! 

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

The centimeter scale on the outer edge enables you to precisely draw circles with a defined diameter, or measure them. Talking about that scale: I of course tested the accuracy, and it's accurate down to a millimeter or so. One slight caveat is that, even though the diaphragm has a lot of rounded blades, you always get a subtly 20-sided circle, not a perfectly round one. At some circle diameters it's more noticeable than others, though (circles above 5 cm appear perfectly round). With that said, I'd say the Iris is still perfectly suitable for drawing, sketching, or doodling. Anything but precise technical drawing. 

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

The rubber padding on the underside of the Iris keeps it firmly in place on the paper, which is necessary as the twist mechanism does require a fair bit of force to operate. 

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW
The Høvel can also be placed upside-down in the wooden base and used as such

One more thing... Both the Iris and Høvel have a purpose-built walnut wooden base. With the Iris, it's included in the box (and doubles as a center-point finder when you place it within the Iris). The base for the Høvel, unfortunately, isn't included and adds an additional 14$ to the cost of the pencil plane. Frankly, I think the base for the Høvel should also be included in the price, as you miss out on a lot of functionality without it. For one, it protects the blade (and also your desk!) when not in use, but it also doubles as a pencil shavings tray, and a holder to place the Høvel upside down to sharpen your pencil with the Høvel on the table  (although I personally find it easier to use handheld). 

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW

If price is no object, and you want something unique on your desk - certainly a conversation piece -, the Makers Cabinet Høvel (69€/ 80$) and Iris (120€/ 138$) are two tools (because despite the beautiful and unique design, that's still what they are) that are definitely worth checking out. Build quality is second to none, and I'm sure the Stria ruler and upcoming pencil extender 'Ferrule' will hold to the same high-quality benchmark Makers Cabinet has set for themselves. 

Better yet - with the upcoming Holiday season in mind - both the Iris and Høvel could make for ideal gifts for the design-minded writing or drawing enthusiasts that already have all the other essentials covered on their desk!

NOTE: These products were provided by Makers Cabinet, 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.

ACCESSORIES FOR THE DESK: MAKERS CABINET HØVEL PENCIL SHARPENER & IRIS COMPASS REVIEW