Archive for the ‘Fountain Pen’ Category


Next door to Puyricard, purveyors of Provençal chocolate on Rue Belges, in between the Croisette and Rue d’Antibes, is Maison Franco, a well-stocked art supplies shop. Of interest to aspiring calligraphers would be an assortment of nibs, nib holders, notebooks with fine-grade paper (such as the Essential Notebook by L’Atelier du Papier), and Talens’ Ecoline liquid watercolors. I bought a Winsor & Newton traveling set with a built-in water container. Failing to produce anything that could remotely be called art, I can at least fill it with single-malt Scotch and behave like an artist.

A couple of minutes’ walk from Maison Franco is a French bookstore, with notebooks and pens on the upper floor. They have a selection of Moleskines, Habana, and Paperblanks, plus Rhodia and Clairefontaine pads and notebooks. There’s an itty-bitty Parker and Waterman booth. In the back of the same floor is art supplies (including calligraphy brushes), G. Lalo correspondence paper, and the last dregs of tester ink in three J. Herbin bottles.

Monoprix, my savior (they were open until 7:30!), had the Forever Forest line of recycled paper notebooks and pads, in addition to the Clairefontaine Triomphe line. I found a cute Pilot Pluminix, which is like a Pilot calligraphy pen made stubbier to appeal to a younger market.

Cannes is not a place to buy pens.

Unless you really really really want a Lamy or an Omas Briarwood. Then head to Graphein. It’s one of Les Boutiques de Gray Street, a row of indoor shops beside the Gray d’Albion hotel, where I spent two weeks of my life. It’s a good thing I only found it on my second to the last day in Cannes. Otherwise the salesperson and I would have been great friends. I bought three bottles of ink (branded Bethge, but manufactured by J. Herbin) and a leather-covered notebook.


Styl’Honoré is on Rue du Marché Saint-Honoré. They have a wide merchandise mix, from school ballpoints to Taccia. What I really wanted to buy was their Cocktail ink. I chose Noir diamant, Coucher de Soleil, Poudre d’Iris and Velours Blue. They come in 75 ml bottles, and can be diluted with water.

Mora Stylos is on Rue de Tournon, which is a short walk from the Odeon Metro stop. (For people with blisters, it’s closer to a death march.) When I went in, I almost stumbled on a huge vacuum cleaner in the middle of the shop. I was that early. The Oldwins were to my left, and I didn’t even bother to look at the other modern pens they had in stock. I spared long looks for the vintage pen selection. They had a delicious Waterman safety. And a pre-owned Sailor Susutake Ito Maki, which used to be my holy grail pen but has fallen from its pedestal because it is simply too huge for my hand. But self-discipline carried the day.

I tried several Oldwin models, picked the Classic in red ebonite, and paid for it with a gulp and a prayer.

On the way back to the Metro stop I passed by Duriez and came away with even more notebooks. So the night before I left Paris, I jettisoned two pairs of shoes, two pairs of jeans and a lot of tops to stay under the 30 kg baggage allowance. Notebooks and ink are more important than silly old clothes.

Oh, and just in case you think I’m insane, there are other people like me in Manila. In fact, we’re having a pen meet this Saturday. Do email me for details if you want to come along.

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Visconti Mazzi Dragon box

Another dragon joins the collection. This time it’s Italian. Claudio Mazzi is best known for his airbrushed Zippos. This was his first collaboration with Visconti. His style reminds me of Heavy Metal covers and 80’s posters beloved of teenage fanboys.

Visconti Mazzi Dragon box

Visconti Mazzi Dragon pen

Visconti Mazzi Dragon - nib and section

The pen’s clip is the classic Visconti arc. The capband is inscribed with “Visconti” and “The Dragon,” in Gothic capitals.

Visconti Mazzi Dragon - stub nib

The nib is a stub, and it’s a juicy one. Noodler’s Antietam shades well. And surprise, it was a nib I didn’t have to tweak.

Three Dragons - Nakaya, Danitrio, Visconti

Why do we never tire of dragons?

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This is a happy Friday. I was able to replace a sac, all by myself.

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So now I have two pens by Hironobu Okazaki. (The first one has a tree frog; my pet name for it is Froggi-e Maki-e.) This one I keep calling Platinum Wave, but it’s actually Silver Wave based on Kevin’s original sales post: “Platinum powders (Hirame, flat foil) used on the wave crest with Taka Maki-e method. The whole pen was painted with white Urushi, Actually the white looks like Beige). Bokashi-nuri was done with gold flat powders at the top to show the sky in blue Urushi.”

I toned the ink to the sky, so it is now filled with Private Reserve Blue Suede. (Pengallery mistakenly sent me two bottles of PR Blue Suede, does anyone want the other one?) This brings my tiny Danitrio collection to five.

Here are three:

These are all large, slightly larger than the MontBlanc 149, but lighter in the hand. I asked for a flexible extra-fine nib on the Silver Wave.

I’ve tried to adjust the color to be more accurate, but this beige-cream-sand shade is hard to capture. The blue on the upper portion of the cap is darker than I thought it would be. It’s the sky in twilight or before a storm, rather than the one lounging above the Boracay sand.

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It has finally arrived, my fourth Nakaya – and my first direct order from Japan. Ishi means stone. The Nakaya craftsmen layered silver over a brown body. The result is a deep gray with light gray highlights that will become lighter. I expect the pen will look worn over time, like rocks in a river.

I ordered a fine flexible nib, and while it is not a full flex, it is certainly pleasant to use and capable of line variation with a light touch.

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After Mass, we passed by HMR. The self-styled “surplus haus” boasted banners in summer colors, and streamers with huge “70% off” headlines in watermelon red. HMR usually has computers, audio and video equipment, legacy parts and supplies (when was the last time you saw dot-matrix printer paper, or 128 MB thumb drives?), and furniture. The stock changes with the season, but those are the mainstays.

The shelves directly after the entrance always have a surprise. Around Christmas last year it was Puffy Ami Yumi playsets in pristine condition. This visit, I found a MontBlanc Noblesse rollerball (the saleslady said, “P7,500 e ballpen lang, ano ba yan.” (P7,500 for a ballpen, how could that be?) I heartily agreed. As my eyes tried to pick out any other pens among the watches (Citizen Eco-Drive, Kenneth Cole Reaction, and a whole lot of Nike Triaxes), I spotted a white object with a discreet bird splat.

White MontBlanc pen case

The pen case came home with me, for the grand total of P550 (around USD13). A bargain with or without bird splat. It’s cute. It feels sturdy. And it fits three M600-sized Pelikans:

Once I get around to ordering custom nibs for the Pelikan Shanghai and Piazza Navona, this could become my when-you-absolutely-need-to-carry-only-three-pens case.

I lucked out on padded envelopes at P10 each, and two VTech educational toys for Lucien. The lady in front of me at the cashier had cleaned out HMR’s entire stock of PET-bottled Perrier, V8, boxed Kleenex and multi-purpose paper. As she whipped out her gold Citibank card and her HMRewards card, I wanted to shake her hand in a sudden surge of shopping fellowship. Thank heavens my mom distracted me with a box of floor polish (24 bottles) and Miracle-Gro plant food.

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I am thankful for the Pentel Aquash, which I carry together with a pan of gouache. I know I can’t paint worth flapdoodle but it is interesting to observe how fountain pen ink mixes with other media. On the Fountain Pen Network, there’s a good thread that explains dye versus pigment versus paint.

Writing with a fine nib over gouache is iffy; when the water evaporates, the gouache feels almost powdery, and there is a real risk of getting pigment particles in between the tines of the nib, which can impair it. I think I prefer layering the gouache over the fountain pen lines and squiggles. It does give more depth, especially if I use a waterproof Noodler’s ink in the pen.


Fountain pen ink also behaves differently when spattered with a brush – at least the Caran d’Ache Saffron I decided to have fun with. It just plops down and stays there, unlike watercolor spatters which can run.

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Read & Write in Paragon Department Store has a decent fountain pen section. Imagine my giddiness when I dropped by and found out they were on sale. I decided to pick up the Pelikan Shanghai and the Pelikan Piazza Navona. Part of the Cities series, the Shanghai is yellow and red with a warm pink pearlescent glow. I filled it with Caran d’Ache Saffron. The Piazza Navona is a subtler sibling, now loaded with Caran d’Ache Caribbean Sea.

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Farewell, Al.

Waterman 7 from Al Mayman

Al Mayman of Penultimate has passed away.

From Maryann and Steve of Signum, posted on the Yellow Board:
The Mayman family asked me to send the following message to friends who are concerned, “We are sad to inform you of the passing of our Dear Friend, Al Mayman, The Penultimate!” His family would appreciate you celebrating Al’s life with a Moment of Silence on March 31st at 1:05 p.m., prior to the Phillies’ Opening Day Baseball Game. In addition to pens, Al had a deep love of baseball.

I have two pens from Al: a Waterman 12 with an artist nib, and the Waterman 7 that arrived just last week. He was always very kind in his emails, and I always sensed a smile behind his patient answers to my pesky questions.

First Jonathan, now Al. I am very sad.

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There were three contenders for my affection in Aesthetic Bay last Sunday, all by Nakaya: a kuro-tamenuri Decapod, a cherry blossom Sumi, and a Piccolo with clip in arai-shu. The Piccolo won. It is the longer Piccolo, commissioned by Aesthetic Bay from Nakaya, because several of their customers liked how the Piccolo looked but were uncomfortable writing with such a petite pen.

Nakaya Piccolo in Arai-shu

According to the Nakaya website, “arai” means washed, or faded. Arai-shu is faded red. I have to admit it was the color that won me over. I have yet to find an orange ink to match this delicious finish. In the meantime, I am using Private Reserve Orange Crush, which for some reason is not orange but a dirty yellow. (It is possible that this is ink gone bad.) I think Caran d’Ache Saffron would be better. This new Piccolo has an extra-fine nib. Beside my original Piccolo, it looks like a Tuba.

Nakaya Piccolos

Who knew there could be so much variation amongst fine nibs? Here are the three nibs on my Nakayas: regular extra-fine, elastic fine, elastic super extra-fine.

Nakaya nibs

On a side trip to Elephant & Coral, after a lively merienda with the gorgeous Itsy, I decided on a Namiki maki-e. One of the women from the Floating World found her way to this pen, and several cherry blossoms followed in her wake.


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Thanks to a friend who’s in Singapore for a conference, my pen will be on its way home in a couple of days. I sent it out for a nib exchange – from a standard fine to a super elastic extra-fine. I can’t wait!


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Before the crowd went madding…

Late last year, Nano came over to be with his sister Duende. He had no clothes. And then when he finally obtained said pieces of stitched-together fabric, they came in the shape of a mint-green terry cloth bird suit. So Nano decided to find an ink bottle to sit on. Here he is, perched on Caran d’Ache Amazon, a vivid green ink from the Colors of the Earth series.
One of the most appropriate actions to take with ink is to put it in a pen. At first, Nano looked down on Conway Stewart Dinkies. “Pah,” he grumbled, “these are mere colorful toothpicks, able only to hold a smudge of ink!” He changed his mind later on when he realized how striking they looked in pictures.
Nano is a Pen Guardian and Consumptive Poet, and he takes his vocation quite seriously. Even in a bird suit.

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We’re shooting at Pinto Gallery in Antipolo. Stairs of stone and cement lead to and from pockets of gardens and ponds. There is a whiff of delightful dereliction about the place, a devil-may-care attitude towards cobwebs and lichen. There are sculptures almost indistinguishable in texture from the grass and soil and wood that surround them. There is a headless, armless Amazon in stone, a man overtaken by snails, a couple in clay staring across the pool to the trees beyond. There is a chapel, with Christ floating on the wall without a cross. There are stands of bamboo, succulent leaves larger than umbrellas, and unclothed wooden saints.

Ah, I thought, a perfect place to shoot my pens.

Blessed be the Tibaldi Iride.

St. Tibaldi Iride

Frog met frog, but nothing came of their encounter.

Frog versus Frog

The new Bexley sleeve filler got a taste of the limelight, in a sawn-off bamboo rod.

Bexley Sleeve Filler

And a tiny tribute to the overwhelmed man in the garden.

May you never be overwhelmed

I’d like to come back here. And sleep.

Time to sleep

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So this is what I was up to, really, in HK. I wanted to see a Nakaya table! Other people fly to Tokyo to see Madonna. This is not a strange thing.

I registered as a buyer and waited until the fair opened at 9:30. When I reached the Platinum Pen Co. table, I gawked at the Nakayas on display in one corner of the booth. A man approached me, most likely wondering why I had a silly smile on my face, and he turned out to be Mr. Toshiya Nakata, the president of Nakaya. (Insert fan girl squeal.)

He said, “A Nakaya owner!” I pulled out my Chinkoku and proceeded to tell him about my purchases at Aesthetic Bay, and how much I liked the Sumi technique (only one Nakaya craftsman can do this) and he brought out a long writer model that had the story of Rashomon executed in Sumi. The Ascending Dragon desk pen was also there, and a raised-technique dragon pen rendered in gold and red on black. The humidity in Okinawa means it takes four months for pens in that style to dry. Also on display were a golden maki-e squirrel on a blue body, two siblings of my Piccolo, a spider in gold and silver on a black body with a golden butterfly on the grip, and another spider pen in a multi-layered technique that even to the untrained eye looks like the highest level of craftsmanship.

I also held my first kanshitsu (stone finish) pen, rendered in silver over deep brown. It was a non-standard Piccolo, longer than mine.

Mr. Nakata refused to sell me anything! And I thought, how wonderful. Instead, he got my name and set aside the kanshitsu for me, noting down my nib preference. I brought out my Omas Arco with the modified nib and he compared it with my Nakaya elastic fine, as I was asking if it was possible to achieve the same kind of flexibility with Nakaya nibs. In the process we got inky fingers; I was profusely apologetic (I had forgotten to wipe down my pen after traveling with it loaded).

After one of the most interesting talks I’ve had in ages, I asked him if we could have our picture taken together. (More fangirl action.)

He was very obliging. I left the HK Convention and Exhibition Center with the widest of grins.

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I found these in two sizes in Powerbooks. The Derwent Sketch notebooks seem to have been a holiday gift favorite, as the branches I visited (Shangri-la Mall and near Greenbelt 4) had only one or two left.

The smaller size is a Moleskinealike, with a rough suede-alike cover. The paper is thick white card stock. It feels thicker and sturdier than the one used inside Moleskine Sketch notebooks, although more “toothy” to the touch. Paper with a little texture holds on to colored pencil and graphite better, and this isn’t at all a surprise given what Derwent’s really known for.

A first stab at copperplate resulted in feathering. I’ll try another nib-ink combination tomorrow.

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