Monday, June 1, 2020

REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
Interestingly, the Platinum Prefounte didn't quite make the splash I thought it would. There was some talk about it before launch, but that seems to have died down more or less now that the pen is actually available. It probably also suffered a bit from the upcoming - though at this point massively delayed - Curidas retractable fountain pen being announced not too long after the Prefounte hit the market, because let's face it, we all have the attention span of a goldfish these days, happily focusing on one novelty for at least a full five seconds before the next 'new' product arrives... ah the joys of the internet age, am I right? 

Anyway, let's focus on the pen before I run the risk of sounding like an old man (Imagine how grumpy and bitter I'll be in 50 years, oh boy!). The simple fact is: the Prefounte deserves more attention!
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
Long story short: the 10$ Prefounte manages to provide such a smooth writing experience that it's hard not to forgive it's unapologetically plastic-fantastic construction. No, it doesn't quite manage to break free from it's ultra-affordable (disposable?) sibling - the Platinum Preppy - leading to the inevitable comparison between these two pens. But yes, the Prefounte does manage to win said comparison, despite offering just a few aesthetic improvements for twice the price of the Preppy.
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
I've never been one for short stories though, so here's the long version: As stupid as it may sound, everything stands or falls with the Prefounte's metal clip. It's a far departure from the flimsy plastic clip on the Preppy. As far as pocket clips go... well, they both do the job, but the Prefounte is both less bulky and much sturdier and simply looks more premium, too. It immediately transforms the 'disposable' (well technically it's refillable, but it's not like it doesn't look disposable) preppy into a simple but smart-looking pen.
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
The lack of flashy, disposable pen-like printing and graphics on the barrel and cap also helps with the smart looks of the Prefounte. Although to be fair, the Preppy already has a more 'premium' version in translucent colors that has fairly minimal branding to begin with. Still, even the best-looking Preppy has a two-tone finish doesn't look quite as clean and elegant as the monotone color scheme of the Prefounte.
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
The plastic that both pens are made out of is identical though. And, well... Let's just say 'premium' has never been the name of the game for the all-injection-molded plastic Preppy, where the cap has a reputation for cracking over time (not surprising, given how firm the snap cap mechanism is, combined with fairly thin plastic walls!). That being said, I've been carrying the Prefounte (gently - I might add) around for the past 5 or 6 months, and it still looks new, so thus far these ten dollars have served their purpose quite well. I also quite like how the inside of the barrel is faceted, to create a nice, which gives a nice effect when the light hits it.
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Pelikan M805, Pilot 78G, Platinum Prefounte, FPR Himalaya, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
The Prefounte measures 13.8 cm (5.4") capped and 12.2 cm (4.8") uncapped. That's not huge, but the tiny nib takes up only a small portion of the total length, freeing up space for a longer section (with a comfortable 1 cm/ 0.4" diameter). This also means that you can grip the pen quite close towards the front, so that this relatively short pen is still long enough to be used unposted. Posting is possible though, and it's of course very comfortable because the total weight of the entire pen is just 11 grams.
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
There's a tiny step between section and barrel, but overall the Prefounte scores quite good marks for comfort. It's not a large pen, but the diameter is just right and it's long enough to hold comfortably, So I can't really complain. Ok, maybe I'd prefer a bit more weight, but hey, that's what you get with an all-plastic pen.
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
The bread and butter of the Prefounte (and many of Platinum's pens) is its excellent writing experience. And that starts of course with Platinum's unique slip-and-seal inner cap that prevents the nib from drying out. Well, I say unique, but these days there are actually a few brands that use a spring-loaded inner cap (such as Wancher, and Esterbrook). Unlike the competition, however, Platinum has theirs down to an exact science: the spring is almost not noticeable when you close the pen, requiring almost no force to cap the pen. It's a 10$ pen (even the 5$ Preppy, for that matter), and it just never dries out! Frankly, there are pens that literally cost 100 times more that can't keep the nib from drying out after just a few days!
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
Of course, a nib that doesn't dry out wouldn't be of much use if it's a crappy nib to begin with. And again, the Preppy and Prefounte seem to punch far above their weight! In true Platinum fashion, ink flow is a little more on the dry side of balanced, without feeling like it's starved of ink. The simple steel nibs are incredibly smooth though. Being pretty much the most basic of basic nibs you can get, this is very impressive stuff! I'm using the 0.3mm nib, which is equivalent to a fine (the Preppy also comes in EF and M, the Prefounte only comes in F or M, although you could technically just swap in the entire section from a Preppy) and I'd be hard-pressed to tell a difference between this or Platinum's gold nib on the #3776.
REVIEW: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN
The Platinum Prefounte (available at La Couronne Du Comte) IS effectively an upgraded Preppy. But even though it's just a minor aesthetic improvement, I'd pick the Prefounte every day of the week.

For a first dip toe into the fountain pen world, the 11€/ 10$ Prefounte is an excellent way to start off. Although it's hard to ignore that the Preppy offers an identical writing experience for less than 5$, the Prefounte at least manages to look a bit smarter than your average disposable pen (excellent for in the office!), and its' 10$ price point still undercuts a lot of other 'budget' fountain pens (e.g. Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari, Platinum's own Plaisir, or even the equally plasticky Pilot Kakuno). Add to that the spot-o writing experience you get, and I think there are worse ways to spend ten bucks!

NOTE: This product was provided by IDC, the BeNeLux distributor of Platinum, 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: PLATINUM PREFOUNTE FOUNTAIN PEN

Saturday, May 23, 2020

RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL

RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL
Since I am: A) terribly late with this review of the special edition - yet currently still available - Baron Fig Squire 'Clear Habitsrollerball, so at this point I don't know how useful an in-depth review of this particular edition would still be. And B) have already reviewed the Squire, in its many iterations, almost half a dozen times by now (Links to all reviews can be found HERE). I've probably said about everything there is to say about the Squire in my previous reviews, and rambled on enough to cause at least a little migraine.

So this post will be a Re-review of the Baron Fig Squire in general, instead. And I will focus on my experiences with the Squire rollerball thus far, and how my perception of this pen has maybe changed over the years.
RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL
The Squire was a pen that immediately won me over. How could it not? Baron Fig, if anything, really has their brand delivery figured out to absolute perfection. The minimalist in me (or rather the minimal design enthusiast, I don't think a hoarder like me could possibly classify as a minimalist!) smiles every time I see the simple packaging, clean lines, bold colors and minimal graphics that look like they came straight from Apple HQ. If you identify with a minimal aesthetic like this, it's easy to get sucked into their biosphere of minimal productivity products... dare I say addictive, even?

But packaging and branding is one thing (You could even argue if it's a valid reason for buying a product?). Luckily, the Squire inside is every bit as brilliant as its packaging. Design is certainly one area where my opinion about the Squire hasn't changed a bit, which is a good thing in this case. In many ways the Squire is about as good as minimal design gets: Just two parts. A very clean and simple, almost fluid-like design that's completely uninterrupted by hard corners, edges, or seams... except where the two parts of the pen meet.
RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL
Talking about that tiny seam: the slight gap between the two parts has been my only pet peeve from the beginning of the Squire's career. Albeit a bit of a stupid one, I suppose. But I can't really fault the design in any other way, so a stupid pet peeve is what you'll get. I feel like they improved the fit between the two parts a bit over the years, but you can still see and feel a slight gap. Is it a problem? No. Do I secretly wish that they'd figure out a way to make it (almost) as seamless as a Lamy 2000? Yeah, obviously!

...Oh, and while we're at it, a roll-stopper could be useful as well!
RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL
Baron Fig's style and impeccable ability to create an attractive story, reflects in the fantastic special edition releases they've done with the Squire over the years. Even though I'm not mad about them slowing down their pacing of special releases these days (All those seasonal subscriptions started to feel like a chore, trying to keep up with one special edition after the other), they've consistently outdone themselves on every single one of them over the years. Not just the minimal color schemes and themed engravings, but also the entire atmosphere created around each theme (The 'Lock & Key' being my absolute favorite, closely followed by the highly sought-after chemistry-themed 'Experiment' that I - as a chemist - thoroughly regret missing out on) - every piece of the puzzle just always fits together.
RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL
The 'Clear Habit' special edition that you're seeing here, is based on the color scheme of the 'Atomic Habits' book by James Clear (A self-improvement book about creating and breaking Habits), and Baron Fig's own Habit-tracker special edition Clear Habit Confidant notebook. Even though I don't read self-improvement books (I probably should), I still very much like the look of this rusty-orange pen and the triangle-pattern engraving.

Despite frequently having multiple Squires hanging around my desk and in my EDC carry, it still strikes me every time how compact these things are. Especially in the anodized aluminum versions that are also very light, making for an incredibly small and nimble pen. And yet despite the almost pocket-sized dimensions, it never feels like a pocket pen in the hand. It IS quite thin, though, which remains my only comfort-related gripe with the Squire. The combination of the slick, smooth shape, and anodized finish, with a fairly thin grip diameter (even at the widest point) does make it a little prone for my hand to cramp up after a while. Granted, it's not as thin as that other Baron Fig pen, the Squire Click (which is not one I'd recommend for more serious writing tasks), but I'd still like to see them try a design with a slightly wider grip area.
RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL
The refill... this is an area where I've changed my mind quite a bit over the past years, and my opinion on the Baron Fig-branded Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill still tends to go back and forth. Since my first experience with the Squire, I've definitely been using more rollerball and gel ink pens. The P8126 was something just shy of revolutionary for me at first encounter, and it's still one of the most satisfying and consistent rollerball refills I've used to date.

But gel pens have taken over the number one spot on my non-fountain pen list. The Pilot G2 (0.5) is just too good of a refill, and it's noticeably less picky about what paper you use it on, since the slightly more viscous gel ink has less tendency to feather and bleed on cheaper paper. That being said, the Squire does also accept Parker G2-style refills, which opens up a wide selection of refills that can be fitted (including the excellent Schmidt EasyFlow 9000M hybrid ballpoint ink refill that's a good compromise between ballpoint and rollerball inks).
RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL
Everything from the minimal design, aesthetically pleasing storytelling, compact and nimble size and excellent rollerball refill... Three years later, these are the things that make me reach for the Baron Fig Squire surprisingly often. And even though aesthetically you could call Baron Fig the stationery-world equivalent of Apple, their prices are actually quite reasonable I think. Starting at 55$, the Squire hits a pretty attractive price point, which makes it hard for me not to recommend picking one up. (Interestingly, the Squire's prices haven't gone up at all in the last three years, the same can't be said for a lot of other pens!)

NOTE: This product was provided by Baron Fig, 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.
RE-REVIEW: BARON FIG SQUIRE ROLLERBALL

Saturday, May 16, 2020

REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
When Esterbrook -one of the most famous American pen brands from the 20th century- was revived back in 2014, it took the writing community by storm... A storm of criticism, that is! The rights to the Esterbrook brand name were bought by someone with an already so-so reputation in the industry, and the pens that came out of the revival had absolutely nothing to do with the original Esterbrook. To make matters worse, the pens seemed to lack quality, the designs were lackluster, and you could see from a mile away that they weren't even comfortable to write with. Needless to say, the revival didn't last very long, and as soon as the storm arrived, it also died down.

In 2018, Kenro (US distributor of Italian brands such as Aurora and Montegrappa) entered the stage and bought up the name to revive the brand once more, and it's safe to say their effort was received quite a bit better. 
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
Although before I start, I do want to point out that I was surprised to see Kenro bring back Esterbrook with an entirely different design (at least for the Estie) that STILL doesn't carry any resemblance to the original brand heritage. Although they redeemed themselves by offering an optional section that takes the extensive suite of vintage Esterbrook nib units, I continue to find it odd that Esterbrook's vintage pens had such distinct designs and materials, yet they chose not to incorporate any of that in the new line of 'Estie' fountain pens. 
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
Look beyond that though, and the Estie is just an overall stunning pen. In a way it does fit in quite nicely with my keenness for minimal design: It's a torpedo-shaped design without even a single piece of metal trim other than the simple, straight clip. The acrylic material is the show-stopper here, the Honeycomb finish is by far the best-looking colorway in their current line-up - at least if you ask me. The warm, golden-brown flecked acrylic is slightly translucent, and the pearlescent bits scattered throughout play nicely in the light.
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
The Esterbrook logo (which remains unchanged from the original, a nice detail) is tastefully engraved in cursive below the clip and is filled with metallic gold paint to match the rest of the trim and blend in quite nicely with the color of the pen itself.

The gold plating on the clip of my particular pen did tarnish a little bit after a few months of use. Nothing a few seconds of spare time and a polishing cloth couldn't deal with though, and the plating seems to have remained intact underneath. But ideally, I'd rather not see it tarnish in the first place. Then again, the Estie is far from the only (and certainly not the most expensive!) pen where I've seen gold platings tarnish.
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
Underneath the cap are two metal decorative bands adorning the section, right above, and below the threads. The threads itself are also acrylic, at least on this 'standard'-sized version of the Estie. The small threaded section of acrylic is fixed in place between the two decorative bands by means of a silver-colored metal inner construction. The color of the metal inner barrel shines through the threads, giving it an ever-so-slightly different hue than the rest of the pen. It's a minor nitpicky detail, though. In comparison, the Estie oversized receives all-metal threads.
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Edison Beaumont, Edison Collier, Leonardo MZ Grande, Esterbrook Estie, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
Now that I mentioned the oversized version... you'd think the regular Estie would be a small pen in comparison, but interestingly it's not that small after all. Measuring 14.9 cm (6.87") capped, and 12.7 cm (5") opened. It's really quite a large pen already, although in diameter it's not outrageous (1.5 cm at the widest point of the cap). The section is rather long and has a fairly common diameter of 11 mm (0.4").
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
The section has a very comfortable, subtly tapered shape. It transitions smoothly into the barrel over block threads that don't feel sharp, and a tapered metal ring. The overall weight of the Estie is kept low (24g) especially for such a large pen, which makes for a fatigue-free writing experience. Kenro has put a comfortable pen on the table with the Estie. It's large when capped, but has almost perfect dimensions when uncapped.

The Estie comes with a spring-loaded inner cap, similar to the ones found on some of Platinum's and Wancher's pens. It feels more like the mechanism that's used by Wancher, where the spring is substantially stronger and requires a noticeable push to catch the threads. It's something to get used to, but fact remains: the mechanism simply does what it's supposed to do, and keeps the nib primed to start writing straight away.
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
The nib of the Estie is of JoWo's hand. It's a stock nib with simple branding laser-engraved on the nib face. I've never been a huge fan of laser-engraved nibs and in this case the combination between the stamped design of the stock JoWo nib and the laser-etched Esterbrook logo... It's not the best-looking nib I've ever seen (although not the worst, either). I do appreciate the fact that JoWo tends to fully gold-plate their steel nibs, instead of doing two-tone designs, which I think does fit the overall design of this pen better. 

As far as the actual writing experience goes though, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. JoWo's broad nibs seem to match particularly well with what I seek in a juicy, smooth, broad nib. The tipping is very round (a lot of broad nibs tend to have a more stubbish shape), which makes for a smooth and uniform line that I quite like with my print handwriting. For the n-th time, JoWo nibs are a bit stiff for my liking, but that doesn't distract from the very pleasant writing experience. This broad nib flies through a converter of ink in no time though, and the metal internal parts mean that you can't convert the Estie to an eyedropper for a higher ink capacity.

Of course one of the main selling points of the Esterbrook Estie - and as far as I can see the only real aspect that ties this pen in with the vintage Esterbook brand - is the option for a separate section (the 'MV adaptor') that can accommodate vintage Esterbrook nib units. This adaptor section costs 40$ (and is unfortunately only available in black) but should be well worth it if you want to breathe new life into the spare Esterbrook nibs that you may have laying around. 
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
At least for a limited time, when you buy the Estie through selected retailers (in Europe, that would be Penoblo in Germany, who sent me this pen for review), you may also get a little (or rather, quite large) gift with your purchase: a custom insulated bottle (a good quality one, too!) with playful vintage-inspired Esterbrook prints all over it. I was a bit skeptical about the bottle promo at first, but I have to admit that mine has been with me to work every day since - thank you for keeping me hydrated, Esterbrook!
REVIEW: ESTERBROOK ESTIE HONEYCOMB FOUNTAIN PEN
Sure, I could nag on about the fact that Kenro sort of missed the opportunity to shape the Esterbrook rebirth a bit more in line with vintage Esterbrooks, but that doesn't change the fact that the Esterbrook Estie is a very nice pen in its own respect. Both in terms of looks and writing performance, there isn't really anything about the Estie that I didn't like... quite the opposite even. 

Perhaps my only gripe with the Estie is that, while it does a lot of things good - and I don't think you'll be disappointed by it -, it doesn't quite manage to excel or stand out. It makes the 195€ (156$ in the US) price tag feel perhaps a bit on the steep side. Especially since that 100-200$ range is a very competitive category to reside in, with some serious competition from brands like Leonardo Officina Italiana, Franklin-Christoph, Edison, Opus 88... You could even get into gold-nibbed pens for that kind of money.

NOTE: This product was provided by Esterbrook (Kenro) and Penoblo, 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.