Monday, March 2, 2015

Les Plumes de L'ange 'Blanc & Bleu' fountain pen

Les Plumes de L'ange 'Blanc & Bleu' fountain penTo make an affordable, though high quality pen, that's the main idea behind the new Belgian brand: Les Plumes De L'ange. Did they succeed? Let's find out...

The 'blanc et bleu' collection consists of five different patterns in blue and white, each design has a french name (french seems to really be the theme here). This one, the 'Camille', is decorated with white dots on an opaque blue background.

The pen itself actually looks quite nice in person, the blue color scheme and vibrant pattern are a nice departure from the neverending array of black pens. The color scheme was inspired by traditional German porcelain art, the resemblance is quite striking. The white dots seem to be painted on top of the blue base color, which gives the body of the pen a subtle but noticeable texture. The design is vivid and rather stylish (be it somewhat more feminine). At the bottom of the cap, you'll find a decorated center band that also features the same blue-white scheme. Oddly enough, there isn't a single logo or brand name to be found on the outside of the pen. the only branding I found was the logo on the nib, and the branding on the packaging.

...Speaking of packaging, I quite dig the way these pens are presented! It comes snugly fit inside a clear plastic tube. An unusual packaging for an unusual pen!
The shape of the pen is somewhat remniscent of a Montblanc, with a classic cigar shape. It's a pretty averagely sized pen, at 13.9 cm long closed, but it appears a bit smaller due to the relatively narrow profile.

Despite the normal size and decent weight (36 grams capped), it still feels quite small, up to a point where even I prefer using it posted most of the time. Once posted, it's a comfortable size (14.4 cm/ 5.75"), and the wheight of the pen is nicely balanced. The all metal build feels solid, and all parts fit together nicely. The matte metal grip section is relatively narrow and not extremely long, but I didn't find it to be too small. The texture on the section is soft to the touch, though relatively slippery. However, the tapered shape of the section flares out a bit towards the nib, which helps maintain a decent grip.
So far so good, but unfortunately, every new product comes with a few issues, and the Plumes de L'ange pens aren't any different. First of all, I started out having some difficulties with the #5 steel Medium nib. It's the basic 'Iridium point Germany' type of nib. But unfortunately I had quite a hard time getting it to work properly. Upon first inking it up, it didn't respond, no matter what I did, I couldn't get the inkflow started. I used a rather difficult ink (a blue-black of some sort), which didn't pair well with this pen it seems, because the P.W. Akkerman royal blue I tried next performed much better. It's a pretty generic nib when it comes to performance (pretty hard, decently smooth but not wow,...).
In the end, the performance of the nib did somewhat exceed my expectations, especially due to the difficult start. It turned out to be really picky when it comes to ink choice, and it definitely benefits from a basic, wetter ink. The writing experience also depends quite strongly on the way you hold the pen. My grip is pretty normal I guess, but I handed it to some less experienced fountain pen users (the kind of public this pen is aimed at!), and they had a bit of a hard time finding the proper orientation. Compare this to, say a TWSBI, which is comparable in price, I'd pick the TWSBI without a doubt. So far there's no way of choosing a different nib size (Medium is the only size currently available), and TWSBI nibs seem to be a fair bit smoother and a bit more hassle-free.
The second 'issue' is more of a gripe really. On the website of the brand, it's clearly stated that the reason they made this pen is to provide a cheap and high quality alternative on the luxury funtain pen market, and because they were frustrated that there weren't any cheap and high quality alternatives. The design is nice, and it's a good quality pen, don't get me wrong, but I don't see the reason why this would be better than a Pilot metropolitan, Lamy safari or Kaweco Student, which are often a lot cheaper to get. The price is what really bothers me most with this pen. The marketing of 'a pen that never leaks and writes smooth' feels a bit too slick. It's clearly aimed towards people that aren't really into pens and therefore don't know the other options. Because let's face it: most fountain pens these days are pretty leak-free and write pretty smooth, a lot of them (kaweco Sport, Lamy Safari,...) don't even cost half as much as this one!
For 50 EUR/ about 55 USD, there's no denying that there are better performers out on the market. One has to give the 'blanc et bleu' credit for its unique and daring appearance that will certainly appeal to the not-so-addicted fountain pen user. But for the seasoned user or collector, better alternatives can be found. If you're new to fountain pens, or you just want a flashy pen that isn't like anything else, this is definitely a valid choice, and it will provide very decent performance once you get the ink choice right. 

Note: this pen was lent to me by Les Plumes De L'Ange, free of charge, so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, nor was I monetarily compensated. The opinions shared in this review are completely my own!

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