A.G. Spalding & Bros Maple-Bodied Pen

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A. G. Spalding & Bros – maple-bodied fountain pen
+ natural finish
+ medium nib
+ Kaweco Turquoise

I have to admit: I bought this pen solely because of its looks. Shallow, I know.

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But there is something about it that’s different: the warmth of the natural wooden barrel bookended by the sturdy aluminum of the cap and the posting end… well, it looks like a pen you’d find in the hand of a pipe-smoking, fastidious car mechanic in the 1950s, the only guy you’d want working on your car. It seems well-engineered to be both hard-working and attractive.

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And it’s got character! The nib, while rather plain, is incredibly wet, smooth, and fun to use. It wrote well right out of the box, no flushing required. The cap snaps off the top and posts with a solid click, though posting definitely renders it really back-heavy. I’m not a fan of the grip, which is miniscule at 1cm long, so I actually grip the wooden barrel, which is more then comfortable. The clip is tight but not totally inflexible, and the way it’s attached to the cap means that, with some effort, you can twist it around to whatever position suits you.

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Effortless, juicy lines.

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Ultimately, this is a very nice pen — I only wish my natural handwriting wasn’t so small and therefore unsuited to the breadth of the line! I’m afraid it’ll probably not get used the way it should.

AL Sport, AL the time

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The first fountain pen I bought was a navy blue Kaweco Sport Chess, which, with its EF nib, instantly became my favorite go-to pen. I loved it so much that when I lost the body of the pen, I bought a replacement immediately. I still love it so much that when I saw that the Goulet Pen Co. had put its AL Sports on close-out sale, I jumped out of bed, bleary-eyed at 5am, to place an order before they sold out. Fifteen minutes later I was back in bed and looking forward to the arrival of this beauty.

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And a beauty it is. Its dimensions are the same as the classic Sport, but it’s a touch heavier and its furnishings are chrome-plated rather than the admittedly garish faux gold of the classic model. Like the rest of the Sports, it comes without a clip to keep the cost down. Clips are available for $3 to $4 depending on where you shop; if you check EBay, you might even find the new “N” clip — “N” for “nostalgia,” apparently. For the record: the design of this pen dates back to the original Sport that was first manufactured in the ’30s.

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And now that it’s made out of aluminum, one of these pens might last you another 90+ years (though the anodized finish will eventually scuff and scratch if you use it well). Far from being slick and cold and impersonal, the aluminum body has a matte finish that gives it a friendly, rough feel, and it quickly warms to your hand. I didn’t expect that, nor the sense of solidness and security that the weight imparts.

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I also didn’t expect to be disappointed — for a second time – by the M nib. It, like the nib on my Student, has a very narrow sweet spot, and if you don’t hold it at exactly the right angle, it skips at nearly every opening stroke. (In the writing sample for this post, I went back and touched up skips, unlike that of my Student review.) What I thought to excuse as an anomaly in my Student seems more like an inherent quality to Kaweco’s M nib. Now, I deliberately avoided the B and BB nibs because I’ve heard they cause problems, but I thought I’d dodge that bullet with the M. Apparently not.

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So it looks like I’ll be shopping out my AL Sport to a nibmeister before I can start singing its praises. It’s a real shame and a big disappointment because I’ve been looking forward to owning an AL Sport for a while. I’m just glad I didn’t pay full price for it. But you know what? As much of a bummer this M nib is, it’s incredibly easy to swap out nibs on the Sports, so if I’m too lazy (and/or broke) to get it to a nibmeister, I can perform a pretty quick fix for $10.50 at JetPens.

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Inktober!

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Jake Parker created Inktober in 2009 “as a challenge to improve my inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavor with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year.”

Perfect for us pen-friends, yeah? The above sketch is Rohrer und Klingner’s Scabiosa in a Speedball dip-nib.

There are only four rules for Inktober:

1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).

2) Post it on your blog (or tumblr, instagram, twitter, facebook, flickr, Pinterest or just pin it on your wall.)

3) Hashtag it with #inktober

4) Repeat

Check out JP’s site for more information, including photos and details about his top 8 pens for Inktober!

Quick cameraphone shot of some of the inking tools I’ll be busting out this month:

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Inktober blog on Tumblr

Follow Inktober on Twitter

Lamy Warranty Service

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Last month I was trying to change the nib on my Lamy Vista when, to my surprise and consternation, the whole feed came right out of the section, nib still attached.

I managed to remove the nib, but reinserting the feed turned out to be problematic. The section is clear, so lining up the feed with the correct grooves shouldn’t be so difficult, right??

Wrong! Only later did I find out that the Vistas are unusually prone to the feed getting jammed, but that didn’t make me feel any less stupid and annoyed when — you guessed it — the feed jammed.

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It just went downhill from there. Once in, it wouldn’t budge. Liberal application of pliers and (later, desperately, and most unprofessionally) teeth were to no avail.

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Tim Allen voice: “OH NO.”

Fortunately, Lamy includes a warranty sheet with every pen they ship. I still had one of those sheets in a drawer somewhere, so I dug it out and set about the process of returning the pen for repair.

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They ask for a check of $9.50 payable to Lamy Pen USA to cover return shipping, but they also specify that the warranty does not cover damage resulting from misuse or abuse. Did my desperate, toothy attempt to un-jam my feed count as “misuse or abuse”? Well… probably, but in any case, whatever extra cost I accrued was still likely to be less than the original cost of the pen.

So I removed the converter — the feed and section were already newly cleaned — and replaced the cap, wrapped the pen up in bubble wrap, and stuck it in a padded mailer. I included a note with my return address and a description of the events that led to the damage. Around September 3 or 4, my husband dropped the package off at our local post office.

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Please note: THIS ADDRESS IS OUT OF DATE! US customers should send pens in need of repair to:

Lamy Customer Service
555 Airline Drive, Suite 100
Coppell, TX 75019

Despite the fact that I had an outdated address on my package, I still got my pen back in less than two weeks! On September 15 I received a return package from Lamy — my pen, safely lodged in a tiny plastic coffin (cryo-tube? sleeping pod? it definitely has a science-fiction-y look about it), with a post-it note stuck to my original card describing the repair done: “FRONT SECTION REPLACED.” I discovered, to my delight, that they had also included an extra-fine nib — although I had not sent a nib in with the pen.

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And how does it write?

Like new. Thank you, Lamy Kundendienst, for bringing my pen back from the dead!

A little more info for those of you who need some work done on their Lamy pens, taken from their website:

We request that you return your writing instrument in a protective box or package that will ensure its safe delivery. To prevent leakage, please remove the refill or cartridge of your pen before shipping to us. Also, if you are using the US Postal Service we would suggest you write “Hand Cancel Only” on the outside of the package to minimize damage from postal machines. Please note that we cannot be held liable for products lost or damaged in shipping on their way to us, therefore we advise sending via UPS or FedEx. If you would like to use the Postal Service, you should send your package via Registered or Insured Mail.

Enclose a brief note in your package with the following information: Today’s Date, Your Name, Daytime Phone, Email Address (if applicable), Your Return Address, Style or Model of Pen (if known), Nature of Problem, and whether your pen has any sentimental value or customization.

Love At First Write: Tomoe River Correspondence Paper

IMG_2664Although I’ve already written quite a bit about Tomoe River paper (or its various forms) before — both in my post on the Seven Seas Writer journal and my Tomoe River master post — I really haven’t gone into the format that I use on an almost daily basis: the humble correspondence pad from Paper For Fountain Pens.

IMG_2662This pad contains 100 sheets of A5-size paper. PFFP sells them in bundles of three for about $20, and is it ever worth it. I have the white version. The sheets are sandwiched between a stiff cardboard back (stamped with the PFFP URL) and a sheet of heavier forest-green paper front. The whole bundle is bound with glue at the top.The sheets are very easy to tear out; I’ve only ever had one corner rip. Once you get toward the bottom of the pad, the cover is likely to fall off. You won’t be toting this pad around with you, unless you don’t mind getting the edges banged up, scuffed, or crumpled.

The paper itself: This is, hands down, the best paper I’ve ever used in my life. It’s extremely thin, translucent even, clocking in at only 52gsm. I’ve described it as feather-light and thin as onion-skin. But despite its apparent fragility, it handles every ink I’ve thrown at it with boundless grace and fortitude.

IMG_2663You can see the delicate golden sheen in the example of the Iroshizuku Momiji ink above. I like Clairefontaine well enough for ink reviews and note-taking, but while its plush surface increases dry time, Tomoe River paper does not. And the only way I’ve ever gotten it to bleed is by pressing too hard with a flex pen.

IMG_2667There is quite a lot of ghosting with TR paper. However, if you’re using letter sheets, it shouldn’t be a problem at all (as one is supposed to write on only one side of a letter sheet). If you’re journaling on it, see my post about ghosting. (Tl;dr: I think that ghosting becomes a non-issue once you write over it.)

Over the past few months, Tomoe River paper has become the ONLY stationery I use for my correspondence. I even carved my own letterhead stamp for it. Because it’s so lightweight, it allows you to write lengthy letters without having to worry about extra postage. It ENCOURAGES you to write lengthy letters, because it’s such a pleasure to write on.

IMG_2665Bottom line: if you use fountain pens, grab yourself some Tomoe River paper. You won’t regret it.

Mood Indigo: The Kaweco Student In Vintage Blue

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Kaweco Student in Vintage Blue
+ Medium Nib
+ De Atramentis’ Myrrh (review forthcoming)
Dimensions: 5.125 inches capped and 6.375 inches posted.

Today is our first day back at the university, and in honor of that (and because I’m so excited to be teaching German again), here is a review of the Kaweco Student pen in the special edition color vintage blau!

It’s true: I’ve got a soft spot for Kaweco  (pronounced Kah-Vay-Co for my non-German-speaking readers). The company was founded in 1883 as the Heidelberger Federhalter-Fabrik Koch, Weber & Co. Heinrich Koch and Rudolph Weber’s company was responsible for turning Heidelberg into the German center for fountain pen manufacturing — and Kaweco makes its pens there to this day. So the name “KaWeCo” is just the spelled-out abbreviation of “K. W. Co.” The More You Know!

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