Friday, March 17, 2017

Fountain Pen Inks Review: J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Ink Bleu Ocean

In September 2012, two years after the successful launch of the revolutionary ink Rouge Hematite, J. Herbin introduced their second limited edition 1670 Anniversary Ink, Bleu Ocean. This deep blue ink was created to celebrate the adventurous sea voyages of J. Herbin to the Mughal (Mogul) Empire of India, the world's earliest center of production and processing of indigo dye during the time.

After Bleu Ocean, three more inks have been added to the 1670 Anniversary line — Stormy Grey, Emeraude de Chivor, and Caroube de Chypre — all with gold flecks and reminiscent of J. Herbin's experiences during his voyages.

I received a bottle of Bleu Ocean a couple of months after its launch, but I was unable to write a full review for a couple of reasons. The reformulated Bleu Ocean with gold flecks was launched in April 2015, replacing the previous ink without flecks. Now that I have samples of both, it's time for a review!

Two of the same: Bleu Ocean without gold flecks (left), and Bleu Ocean with gold flecks (right).

As a blue ink fanatic, Bleu Ocean has been one of my favorites. It's the only ink I use in my Ocean Blue Lamy AL-star, because their colors (and names) match. I can write with it for legal documents, journaling, calligraphy, and notetaking. When this ink was launched in 2012, J. Herbin followers were not happy with it. Its predecessor, Rouge Hematite, had a successful launch and fans raved about its color and the gold flecks in it. After the announcement for Blue Ocean's release, most people (okay, that included me) expected the ink to have silver flecks — as a follow up to Rouge Hematite, and to match the bottle's silver cord and wax seal as well. When it came out without the flecks, people were disappointed, and branded Bleu Ocean as "just another blue ink."

See the gold flecks in the bottle's opening? Cool! The 1670 bottle has a unique design, but it has a smaller opening than most other ink bottles. Filling big pens requires the help of a pipette or syringe. 

Flecks or no flecks, I love Bleu Ocean. Like its four siblings in the 1670 Anniversary line, it's a collector's item. The box design represents the life of J. Herbin as a French sailor. The 1670 bottle, despite the narrow opening, is lovely. The silver cord, wax seal, and waxed cap are beautiful, making every 1670 box and bottle true collector's items.

Gold flecks at the bottle's bottom.
The 1670 Anniversary inks box represents the life of J. Herbin as a sailor and his voyages to different places.

Although unconfirmed by J. Herbin, the blue color of Bleu Ocean seems to be derived from indigo dye, a natural plant-derived dye with a distinctive blue color. Once considered by the Greeks and the Romans as a luxury product, indigo dye is the color that is often associated with blue jeans.

To test the inks, I wrote on Tomoe River Paper using Lamy Safari and AL-star fountain pens, both with 1.1 nibs. 

Bleu Ocean reminds me of indigo Mediterranean tiles and the blue and white houses in Santorini. This exquisite ink also reminds me of both Van Gogh and Picasso and the depth and poignancy of their work. Van Gogh's Irises and Starry Night; Picasso's The Old Guitarist and The Blue Room.

Bleu Ocean evokes memories from years ago when I used to associate dark blue color with dusk and twilight and their accompanying sounds: crickets chirping, newscast on TV, my mother cooking dinner, our dog snoring, my brothers' banter.

Bleu Ocean has a dark, rich, deep blue color with soft hints of purple. It is a versatile fountain pen ink, and goes from bright purplish blue (Eclat de Saphir) to a dark, almost blue-black shade (Blue Nuit). It is more saturated than most J. Herbin inks, but flows smoothly, and can be cleaned off pen parts very easily. Fortunately, it dries faster than Rouge Hematite, and does not show any of the ugly nib creep in the fountain pens that I have inked with it.
A swab of Bleu Ocean without gold flecks. 
These ink drops took almost an hour to dry. I got this almost blue-black shade in my previous fills of Bleu Ocean in pens with broad, wet nibs.
Dark Bleu Ocean with sheen up close. Do you see this blue in Picasso's The Old Guitarist? I do.

Bleu Ocean with gold flecks was launched in 2015.

These ink drops took longer to dry than the ones without the flecks.

It's a thrill to see the gold flecks up close!

Because Bleu Ocean is a highly saturated ink, it takes longer to dry, around 8-10 seconds more than the regular Herbin inks, depending on the nib and paper. On Rhodia and Tomoe River Paper, it takes a bit longer to dry. It can be prone to smudging and is not water resistant.

It's a big help for fountain pen users to be able to clean their pens easily. Both inks are easy to clean off nibs and feeds of the two pens I used in this review, but I had a hard time taking off the gold flecks in the Lamy Z24 converter that I ended up disassembling it for a full cleanup.

Gold flecks and shading in my writing sample.
Bleu Ocean in Ocean Blue and Blue. Blue on blue.

If you use fountain pens regularly like I do, if you like J. Herbin inks, and if you have any of the 1670 Anniversary inks, I recommend getting a bottle of Bleu Ocean. Make this ink a part of your collection! The one without gold flecks has been out of production already, but the one with gold flecks is a versatile ink with beautiful shading and shimmer. Get one in your ink collection now! 

Both bottles of 1670 J. Herbin Anniversary Ink Bleu Ocean are from Exaclair USA, through the kindness of Karen Doherty, Marketing VP. 

The Tomoe River paper is from Scribe Writing Essentials, the leading distributor of fine writing instruments, specialty paper including Rhodia; fountain pen inks, including J. Herbin; and other fountain pen related accessories in the Philippines. 

J. Herbin products are widely available worldwide. For a list of authorized retailers, visit the J. Herbin website.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fountain Pen Review: Kaweco Classic Sport Red

Kaweco welcomed 2016 with the launch of a selection of new pens, ink colors, and accessories. Four Sport pens  one for each of the following lines: Classic, Skyline, ICE, and AL  were released during the year. A bright, shiny red pen with gold trims was added to the Classic line, and my friends at the magical shop in Nürnberg sent me one to review here. I do not have many red fountain pens, and the red Classic Sport pen is the perfect addition to the small group of red pens in my collection.

The red Classic Sport fountain pen is from Kaweco's Sport Series that includes the Aluminum, Stonewashed, AC, Art, Brass, ICE, and Skyline. It is available in black, chess, guilloche, white, green, burgundy, transparent, and red. It is called the Classic because it follows the same design from the early 1940 Kaweco Sport pens. Sport pens are clipless, but clips are available from retailers in chrome, gold, or bronze finishes.

The Sport is a lightweight fountain pen, is easy to carry in one's jeans' pocket, or tuck in a bag. This small pen, however, has a unique design and becomes a full-sized pen when the cap is posted on the barrel. The pen is designed well, and Kaweco built it using high quality plastic.

Without a clip or an ink cartridge, the Classic Sport fountain pen weighs 10g (body - 6g; cap - 4g) only. Did you know that a posted Kaweco Sport fountain weighs exactly the same as the body of a Lamy Safari?

The Classic Sport fountain is ~4.10 inches with its cap on, and a short 4 inches without the cap. When the cap is posted, the pen measures 5.3 inches long — a full-sized fountain pen!

Some fountain pen users say that Kaweco Sport pens are difficult to use without posting the cap. But this pen's faceted cap is designed to be an extension of its barrel to make it a full-sized pen. The cap is also a built in roll stopper, so that even without a clip, the pen will not easily roll off a surface.

The Classic Sport fountain pen's parts — barrel, section (grip + feed + nib), and cap are in the same bright red color. The nib and feed are friction-fitted into the section, and they can be easily pulled out for a thorough cleaning. The cap is threaded and screws securely to the barrel — not typical of small pens in this price range — which is a very practical feature.

The Classic Sport fountain pen is filled with ink using cartridges or converters. Kaweco has their Premium ink cartridges for Sport fountain pens, but international standard short cartridges also fit in these fountain pens. Kaweco also offers two types of converters for Sport fountain pens: mini-converter and the squeeze converter (in my pen, pictured above) which can fill up with the same amount of ink as an international standard short cartridge (0.5–0.6 ml). However, filling it up was awkward, and squeezing it repeatedly did not fill it with ink to its full capacity. I inked this pen instead with a cartridge of Kaweco's Sunrise Orange.

The bottom of the Classic Sport fountain pen barrel is knurled, and says 'Made in Germany.' 
The Sport's oversized cap with octagonal shape is iconic and distinguishes it from other Kaweco pens.
Classic Sport pens have gold trims, including their finial (top cap), which bears the Kaweco logo.

My red Classic Sport has a medium (M) nib, but Kaweco Sport pens have nibs ranging from extra fine (XF) to double broad (BB). Other Sport pens have chrome/silver nibs, but those in the Classic line have gold plated nibs. The imprint includes the nib width (M), Kaweco logo, and the words Germany and 1883 under a filigree-like pattern.

The feed and nib of Kaweco Classic fountain pen. The nib's gold plating has discoloration in the part where it is inserted in the section, but this does not affect writing at all.

My red fountain pens: Lamy LE China, Pelikan Souveran M400, Unic, and Kaweco Classic Red.
Kaweco Sport fountain pens (from top): Calligraphy, AL (aluminum), ICE, Skyline, and Classic.

The medium nib wrote well out of the box. It's still a little narrow for my writing, but very useful when the occasion calls for small handwriting. Sunrise Orange was launched in 2016, together with Smokey Grey.

The Kaweco Classic Sport is a well-made, compact fountain pen that is portable and easy to use. The gold-plated steel nib writes well, and can easily be swapped with other Sport nibs. It's a great pen in the US$30 price range, a perfect companion for small notebooks. If you are looking for a happy fountain pen, I suggest you get this red Kaweco Classic Sport for yourself.

The Classic Sport and other Kaweco pens are widely available in many reputable sellers worldwide. For a list of sellers, visit Kaweco's Store Locator.

I received the Classic Sport fountain pen in this review free of charge from Kaweco Germany for review purposes. For more details, visit the Kaweco website.

In the Philippines, Kaweco pens are available at Scribe Writing Essentials stores in Eastwood Mall, Shangrila Plaza Mall, Glorietta 5, SM Aura, SM Megamall, and in their Cebu branches. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, visit the Scribe website. Kaweco pens are also available at Stationer Extraordinaire.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Fountain Pen Review: Monteverde Prima Green Swirl

In my years of accumulating, collecting, and using fountain pens, I've tried many brands, and found several favorites to keep. There are still some that I want to try, pen brands that I want to know more about. One of these is Monteverde, an American pen brand distributed by YAFA Pen Company. I've always wanted to try Monteverde pens — the demonstrator Artista Crystal, the carbon fiber Invincia, and the acrylic Prima.

A few weeks ago, Pen Chalet owner Ron Manwaring kindly sent me this lovely Monteverde Prima fountain pen in Green Swirl with a wonderful No. 6 stub nib to review. I don't have many green pens, and this Prima in Green Swirl is just beautiful! It's a perfect green pen for the year, to match Pantone's 2017 Color of the Year, Greenery.

The Prima series is available in five colors: Green Swirl, Tiger Eye Swirl, Turquoise Swirl, Purple Swirl, and Black Swirl. Monteverde also offers them either as ballpoint, or rollerball. These pens' caps and barrels are made from European grade glossy acrylic resin, accented with black and chrome.

The Prima measures 5.30 inches long and weighs 27 grams when capped. Without the cap, it is only 4.92 inches and 17 grams. When the 10 gram cap is posted, the Prima is longer at 6.10 inches, and heavier at 27 grams. This is why I (and other fountain pen users) do not usually post my pens. Posting their caps make them uncomfortably long and heavy.

Cap and barrel of Monteverde Prima. The translucent glossy acrylic resin with black swirl is just beautiful.
In different lighting, it has an attractive sheen and shimmer.

It's useful that the Prima can be fully taken apart. The threaded Monteverde converter can be easily disassembled, too. 

The barrel tapers off toward the black finial at the bottom, separated from the body by a chrome ring. When the fountain pen is uncapped, and the barrel is separated from the section, one is left with the converter and the nib and feed assembly (holder, feed, and nib). Using a rubber grip, I was able to take out the screw-type nib and feed assembly from the metal section. I pulled out the nib and feed from their holder, for a complete disassembly. It wasn't an easy process, and one I won't recommend to newbies and inexperienced hands to avoid breaking the feed or its holder. 

I usually disassemble pens for thorough cleaning and even drying. Cleaning pens for reinking or storage is always a must for me. 

Monteverde Prima parts (from top): cap, barrel, section, piston driver, converter, piston rod/shaft, converter ring, nib and feed holder, feed, and nib.

The Prima's metal clip is quite stiff, but holds the pen securely in place. The chrome cap rings with black inset has two imprints: 'Monteverde' on the clip side, and 'PRIMA' on the back side.

The Prima can be filled with ink using a standard international cartridge or converter, both included in the box. The threaded Monteverde converter screws onto the section for a secure fit, preventing ink spills if the converter is accidentally pulled out. The Prima's metal section adds to the durability and stability of this pen.

Monteverde offers the Prima fountain pen series with a fine, medium, broad, and stub (1.1) stainless steel nib. The Prima's nib contains several markings. Monteverde's logo of jagged mountain is imprinted across the nib, cutting across the breather hole. At the base, the logo and 'Monteverde USA' are imprinted. On the left tine's shoulder, 'Monteverde' is again imprinted, while the nib width (this pen has a 1.1 stub) is on the shoulder of the right tine.

The underside of the Prima's feed bears the number 6, indicating the pen's nib size.

The Prima's nib (center) with other No. 6 nibs (left to right): Edison, Bexley, Nemosine, and Jinhao.

Size comparison with smaller and bigger pens. From top: Kaweco Ice Sport, Prima, Kaweco Student, Lamy Al-Star, and TWSBI 540. The Prima is a full-sized pen designed to be ergonomically balanced for comfortable writing.

The Prima's 1.1 stub stainless steel nib is an expressive writer. The line variation it produced, together with ink shading is lovely. It's a hard starting nib, though, and definitely not a wet writer. When I was writing the text below, I had to pause several times to push some ink in the converter into the feed and nib. I'm thinking that this problem may be due to poor ink flow in the feed, a common Monteverde concern that I knew about prior to this review. But that can be remedied by widening the ink channel, and using a wet ink to avoid flow issues.

Despite the flow issue (which I have fixed), I am happy with the Prima and will recommend it to those who want to explore and know the brand. It's a great pen, and I will consider getting another one in the future. The Tiger Eye and Turquoise Swirl pens look good! Get one for your collection.

The Monteverde Prima in this review is provided by Pen Chalet where it retails for US$75. For more details on purchasing pens from Pen Chalet, visit their website at
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