Parker 51

Parker51aHere, the teal blue Parker 51 has a deep green color

It’s simple. It’s perfect. It’s a fountain pen. It’s the Parker 51. Much ink and many pixels have been spilled and typed in the name of this fine pen. Frankly, a vintage pen ignoramus like myself can’t add much to the discussion other than my own personal experience and thoughts so that is what you’ll get here. I bought this restored pen with a new sac on ebay from a seller I have had positive dealings with in the past. Compared with the prices I saw for 51s at the Philly and Long Island pen shows, the $120 I paid seemed fair. Considering it may now be one of my two or three favorite fountain pens, $120 seems all the more reasonable. As for the age of the pen, the “Made in USA” followed by  “9.”,the teal blue color and the “Parker” imprint on the cap band makes me think the pen originates from July to September of 1949. As such, the pen body is made from poly(methyl methacrylate), also known as Lucite. Remember plexiglass? Same stuff, just not clear like plexiglass.


Let’s talk about the writing experience. Mine is a Parker 51 Aerometric with a fine nib and it seemed to me that a classic pen deserved a fairly classic/conservative ink so I loaded mine with Waterman Florida Blue. If I had some blue Parker Quink I would have used that instead. (By the way, how the hell do I not have blue Parker Quink in my collection?! Seriously, isn’t a bottle of Parker Quink essential for any serious pen nerd?) In a word, the writing experience is…fantastic. I L…O…V…E the way this pen writes. The nib is stiff enough to feel like it will tolerate plenty of use and abuse but also produces a fair amount of line variation. Maybe it’s because my handwriting is entirely utilitarian (on a good day), but line variation and ink shading are not big deals for me. Still, it is fun to work with a pen that you know can be an everyday workhorse and still give your writing some genuine character. I have noticed that, after a day of disuse, the 51 takes a couple inches of writing to get going (see the word “Parker” in the picture below – it’s a bit lighter than the rest of the text). Otherwise, I have not experienced any issues with skipping or other typical troublesome nib concerns. As for weight, balance and feel, all are nearly ideal. While the weight is ideal for my hand, I do find the Lucite material to be a touch slippery and the length of the pen to be a tad too long. Perhaps the purchase of a demi 51 is in my future to address the length concern but neither the minor issue of feel nor the less than minor issue of length will stop me from using this pen every chance I get.

Parker51kHere, the pen has more of a deep blue color

Parker51lRhodia White and Rhodia Yellow – As you might expect, the pen releases more ink onto the thirstier yellow paper

Of course, you can’t talk about a Parker 51 without mentioning the hooded nib. Personally, I love the whole design aesthetic of a hooded nib as the pen manufacturer is saying, “Hey, we’re not trying to be flashy here. We’re going to focus on making a workhorse pen.” Is the Parker 51 a tad bit boring? Yes. If you want sexy, go for a modern Visconti. If you want understated simplicity and a pen that only draws the attention of genuine pen freaks, then get yourself a well-maintained/refurbished Parker 51.

Parker51fWait, now we have a softer teal color going on here.

Rating and Conclusion
I cannot recommend this pen enough. It’s an absolute “Carry It” pen for me and I plan to do just that every day. Give my this Parker 51 with Waterman Florida Blue, two Energel-Xs (one blue or black for general writing and one in purple or green for grading) and a TWSBI Mini with whatever ink is matching my mood that week and I’m good to go for all occasions. One last comment – how about that color?! It’s blue, it’s green, it’s blue-green…Depending upon the light, this pen has a anything from a midnight blue color to a soft teal complexion – very cool. Anyway, here’s my bottom line: find a way to budget a Parker 51 for your collection and find a way to do it soon. You can’t have this one, but thankfully there are many more like it out there. But don’t wait because I’ll be looking for more 51s in the days, weeks, months and years to come and I’d hate for us to be bidding against each other. 🙂

Parker51CollageNow the damn thing looks almost black in some of these pictures!



Bexley Admiral

I attended my second pen show of the year by making it to the Long Island Pen Show in mid March. Compared to the Philadelphia Pen Show I went to earlier this year, the LI show is a more modest affair. In terms of space and number of merchants, I’d put the LI show around 50-60% the size of the Philly show. Despite its smaller size, the LI show more than holds its own. Anyway, the show is not our focus here; perhaps a post about the show will come later. Those interested in a review of the LIPS should go here. Right now, let’s talk about my favorite purchase of the show – this small but beautiful bit of fountain pen fun…


I bought this Bexley Admiral from Richard Binder with a fine nib. As you may know, Richard tunes up the nib of any pen he sells so you’re guaranteed to be more than satisfied with your purchase. Now, there are a few oddities to the Admiral that makes it less than perfect, but the writing experience is great – at least for my everyday writing style. At this point, I have around 15 fountain pens with different nibs and it’s clear to me that I prefer a stiff fine nib that lays down a moderately dry line. I don’t want dry dry, but I definitely do not want anything most folks might consider wet. The nib of the Admiral fits my bill rather well. In fact, it may be the stiffest nib in my collection and the line is offers is fairly typical of an American or European fine line (shown here with Waterman Mysterious Blue).


It’s not apparent from any of the pictures, but this is a small, pocket-sized pen. Capped, the Admiral is about a centimeter longer than a TWSBI Mini. Posted, the Admiral is about a half centimeter shorter than a posted TWSBI Mini. If you only write with big, heavy pens then you should stop reading and avoid the Admiral all together. Now for some of those oddities.

First, the name. A pen called the Admiral should be a big , brawny handful of a pen. Look, the size works for me but a more appropriate Navy-themed name would have been something like the Bexley First Mate or the Bexley Ensign. Then there’s the nib. While I really like the function and the look of the nib on its own, the gold tone of the nib is mismatched with the blue, white and black camo/cow pattern with silver trim of the pen body.  I suspect it’s a matter of stock and scale at Bexley and that they don’t want to tailor their nibs to all the pen bodies they sell, but the combination may be a turnoff for some. Lastly, the short length of the barrel means a full-sized converter is a no go and we’re stuck with one of those stubby plunger converters.


Overall, I’m very satisfied with the Bexley Admiral. The nib/body mismatch and small ink reservoir are, no pun intended, small concessions to make for a pen that can go anywhere with you and that, thanks in no small part to Mr. Binder, writes wonderfully. If you’re looking for a smaller fountain pen that might make more of a style statement than other pocket pens, the Admiral is a great way to go.


Pentel Energel – Multiple Pen Review


*****UPDATE: Now doing an Energel Pen giveaway. Details are at the bottom of this post*****

Welcome to the first multiple pen review done here at That One Pen. We’ll be focusing on the various forms of the widely available Pentel Energel pens. Energels most commonly come in two point sizes: 0.7 mm (M) and 0.5 mm (F). You can buy 1.0 mm (B) and 0.35 mm Euro needle-points online, but I generally only find the (M) and (F) pens in my local office supply stores. All the pens shown in this review are 0.7 mm (M) points.

Going left to right in the picture above we have: Energel Deluxe RT blue, Energel Deluxe RT purple, Energel Deluxe RT pink, Energel Alloy RT, Energel Stick blue, Energel-X RT blue, Energel-X RT purple and Energel-X RT sky blue. You’ll see samples of other colors later; I just want to show the array of options available in the Energel line right now. The Deluxe RT version (3 on the left) also come with grips colored the same as the ink and not just the white grips as shown. If you imagine the colored grips of the Energel-X’s (3 on the right) on the Deluxe versions, you pretty much have it. The Energel Alloy RT also come in different colors. What’s nice is that the Deluxe RT, Alloy, Stick and Energel-X all take the same Energel Liquid Gel refill (LR 10, LR 7 or LR 5 depending on point size). If you’re into the whole hack thing, the LR refills are plastic tubes that can be easily cut to fit other pen bodies. The particular shape of the refill tip limits the pen bodies you can get the LR refills to work with so we’ll leave it to the reader to experiment. In the US, you can find the blue and black refills at Staples and other major office supply stores if you want to experiment with the refills without getting the actual pen.


Given that all versions use the same refill, there are obviously a lot of similarities to the writing experience. The Energel refill is smooth and, most important to us lefties, very, very fast drying. To me, the writing experience of the Energel is a touch smoother than that offered by the widely available Pilot G2 pens but there’s no doubt (none – I’ve checked several times) that the Energel dries faster than the G2. I won’t dismiss the G2 at all. It’s a fine pen with a great range of colors and might even be a bit easier to find than Energel. I find that the 0.7 mm tip of the G2 leaves a thinner line than the 0.7 mm tip of the Energel but again, the G2 is just a touch rougher of a ride.

Let’s get to some of the differences, starting with the grips. Below is a close up of the grips for the Stick, Alloy, Deluxe RT and Energel-X RT (L to R). Not surprisingly, the Alloy has the hardest feel followed by the Stick then the Energel-X then the Deluxe RT. I did not measure the grip widths with a caliper, but to my fingers the Deluxe RT feels the widest, the Stick and Alloy follow and are very similar and the Energel-X feels a touch thinner still. Don’t get me wrong – the widths of all the grips are very close. Still, I do feel a difference – certainly between the wider Deluxe RT and the thinner Energel-X.


Let’s talk clips. With the exception of the Energel-X and its all plastic build, the pens have metal clips with some plastic tabs near the top. Including the Energel-X, all the clips feel strong and well made. The edges of the clips on the Stick and the Deluxe are a bit sharp and could possibly scratch/dig into the lip of pocket material if you’re not careful. The other noticeable difference is that the Energel-X clip has some printing on it and, unlike the other three pens, the bottom of the Energel-X clip curves away from the pen barrel a bit.


When deployed (and capped in the case of the Stick), there are some clear differences in length as you can see below. The Stick is the longest followed by the Alloy. The Deluxe RT and Energel-X are similar with the X possibly being shorter by a hair. When posted, the Stick also feels noticeably wider than any of the other pens.


Also when deployed, the Deluxe RT and Energel-X can rattle just a bit because the button does not stay in the pushed-in position. As you can see in the picture above, both buttons are depressed for the Deluxe RT and Energel-X, but they easily slide out to create the rattle noise. The noise is not terribly loud or distracting, but it’s definitely there. The Stick, as you might expect, is perfectly quiet and the button of the Alloy has some added spring tension that keeps it stuck out whether the refill is deployed or not so it’s nearly 100% silent as well.

*****UPDATE: Now doing an Energel Pen giveaway. Details are at the bottom of this post*****

Interestingly and/or unfortunately, you cannot swap parts of one pen with parts of another. The picture below shows all the pens disassembled. The Deluxe, Alloy and Stick separate at the body/grip divide while the Energel-X opens at the button/body divide. The thread sizes and female/male sections are all different from pen to pen so you won’t be using the grip section of the Deluxe on the Energel-X or, most disappointingly, you won’t be attaching the Energel-X grip to the Alloy body. In fact, the Energel-X grip section appears not to unscrew from the body at all. It does look like the grip sections of the Stick (far back in picture) and Deluxe (front in picture) should be interchangeable but it’s definitely a no go.


Getting back to the writing experience. Bottom line, I really like the way these pens write. I rarely use an Energel for extended writing sessions, limiting most of my time to writing short notes or, more commonly, to grading tests and quizzes. The writing action is smooth and consistent. I have yet to find a paper surface that causes an Energel to skip. Even Post-It Notes, which can be notoriously difficult for various pen types, are no problem for the Energels. (Aside – I like Parker gel refills but Post-It Notes or slightly glossy paper wreak havoc on them so they’re out). Have I mentioned yet that they dry faster than any pen I’ve found to date. Is the ink waterproof? Honestly, I don’t know and it’s not a test I really care about.


Being gel pens there are, of course, several color options available. Having used these pens in all their colors for several years, I’ve noticed that the regular blue and black flow more readily than the other colors. For me, the blue and black are almost too slippery on something like Rhodia but work fantastic on “toothier” copy or Field Notes paper. Because they can be purchased readily on their own in the Deluxe version, I’ve used purple and green more than any other color besides blue. But, having recently grabbed a multicolored pack of Energel-X, I see the sky blue and orange getting quite a workout soon.


So, do I have a preference between the Deluxe RT, Energel-X, Alloy and Stick? Well, the Stick is definitely in last place for me. In my work flow, gel pens are meant to add a bit of color to lecture notes, write a quick list or grade so I prefer the efficient retractable versions. The Stick is well built and the cap attaches with a satisfying “click” when capping or posting so there’s nothing wrong with it; I just prefer the convenience of the retractable pens. I want to like the Alloy more than I do. The body colors options are cool (especially the black) and they feel built to last. But, the balance is off for me as I wish it was weighted more towards the grip section. For the longest time, I used the Deluxe RT much more than any of the other models. That said, I’ve spent time with the Energel-X recently and I’m changing my allegiance. The ever so slightly thinner feel of the Energel-X, its comfortable but not too soft grip along with its less sharp clip compared to the Deluxe RT work better for me.

*****UPDATE: Now doing an Energel Pen giveaway. Details are at the bottom of this post*****

Importantly, these great refills come in a variety of colors and body styles that most folks should be able to find something that works. Do you prefer a longer, wider pen? Go with the Stick. Do you want something sharper looker for the office or to give as a gift? Go with the Alloy. Do you like clean lines and Apple-inspired white style? Go with the Deluxe RT. Do you like a slightly thinner grip and/or prefer that the color you’re grabbing to be blatantly obvious? Go with the colorful Energel-X style.

The Energel is a “Carry It”, “Desk It” and “Give It” pen for me. I carry them everywhere. There are probably 2, 3 or more on my home and office desks right now and I’ve given them as Secret Santa gifts to make a few converts.

The Energel is like my collection of Peter Gabriel albums. I may have too many pens and too many albums to name (and goodness knows I do on both counts). Still, no matter how many pens or albums I get I always come back to my Energel pens and Gabriel albums. The Energel just works for me each and every time just like Peter Gabriel’s albums work for me at any time, while in any mood and for any occasion. Do yourself a favor. Check out the Energel in the style that would work best for you.

Here are some other reviews of Energels, including a couple for the Tradio. The Tradio is more refined-looking version of the Stick that takes the same refill and comes in a variety of colors.
Review on Pentel’s Site
Gourmet Pens (A colorful review of the full line of Energel-X.)
Pen Addict (Tradio review)
A Penchant for Paper (Stick review. See embedded links for other Energel reviews.)
Pens! Paper! Pencils! (Energel-X review)
Clicky Post (Tradio review)



Energel Pen Giveaway!!! I will be giving away 1 Energel Deluxe RT blue, 1 Energel Stick blue, 1 Energel-X blue plus two(2) other Energel related surprises. The pens I’m giving away will be new or very, very close to new. To enter, simply leave a comment to this post. The giveaway will close Sunday, February 23 at 5:00 pm Eastern time US. I’ll ship the pens to any US address. The posts will be numbered in the order they are received and a random number generator will select the winner. Feel free to leave up to 3 comments if you’d like to enter multiple times. I may respond to your comments, but obviously my comments are not counted or numbered as entries.

Retro 51 Tornado Stealth


Can you be any sort of pen aficionado without having at least one Retro 51 Tornado in your collection? Probably, but given that Retro 51’s are a gateway pen for many pen wackos it seems unlikely. When you factor in their solid build quality, decent price, multitude of colors and styles and the variety of refill possibilities, failing to give the Retro 51 Tornado a close look would be a serious oversight for anyone wanting to be a pen person. Okay, maybe you don’t want to be known as a pen person; it’s definitely one of the nerdier monikers to have. That said, regardless of your level of pen nerdiness, you should check out the Tornado.

I’ve had a few Tornadoes over the years yet between moving, losing and giving, I somehow only have the Tornado Stealth currently in my possession. There’s a blue Tornado Classic Lacquer somewhere, but I think the wife keeps it at work. Anyway, lucky for me, if there’s one Tornado to have it’s probably this black beauty. As you can see from the pictures, my Stealth has some noticeable wear and tear which is perfectly fine by me. A worn pen is a loved and used pen and my Stealth is definitely both.


The first thing you notice when picking up a Tornado is the weight. It’s not a heavy pen but, at 31 grams, it certainly has some heft to it. The build quality is top notch. The knurled knob that deploys the refill turns smoothly and has just the right amount of resistance. The connection between the pen tip and the body, where you insert the refill, is nearly seamless. The only criticism I would offer relates to the clip tension; I’d prefer a tighter clip. It does the job but it may not keep the pen perfectly still when clipped to thinner dress shirt pockets. Of course the Tornado is a short pen (13 cm = 5.1 inches) so those with big beefy paws may find the pen is too short. Personally, I love the size and the weight.


How does it write? Well, that’s largely up to your refill preference. The Tornado comes with a capless 0.7 mm rollerball. Straight up, it’s a great rollerball. Schmidt also makes a slightly thinner 0.6 mm rollerball (P8126). You might think such a small difference wouldn’t be noticeably but you’d be wrong. It’s not night and day different, but the 0.6 mm is just a bit tighter of a line and is the refill I prefer. You can also load the Tornado with any Parker style refill you want which really opens up the options for this well-built and versatile pen.


The Retro 51 Tornado is such a work horse. So, if the rollerball refills or any Parker-style refill work for you it’s an absolute “Carry It” pen. I’ve dropped, scrapped, tossed, etc. this pen in so many different ways and yet it keeps on working, no questions asked. Other rollerballs are fancier. Other rollerballs are cheaper. The Retro 51 Tornado splits the difference nearly perfectly.

The Retro 51 Tornado is like your favorite belt. Most of the time you just need your belt to do its job. You don’t want to fuss with it and you don’t want to think about it. The Tornado does its job each and every time but then, like a good belt, it offers a bit of adaptability when you want/need it. Need to use a ballpoint instead of a rollerball? Not a problem. Ate a bit too much at lunch and need a little breathing room? Not a problem. Trust your belt and trust your Retro 51 Tornado.

The Tornado is a popular pen. As you might expect, others have lots to say. (Most reviews are discussing other versions of the Tornado.)
The Well-Appointed Desk
The Pen Addict
The Clicky Post
The Pencil Case Blog
Gourmet Pens


Kaweco AL Sport


Holy cow! I am absolutely digging the Kaweco AL Sport. There are two minor issues with the AL Sport that prevent me from possibly labeling it as THAT ONE PEN, but it really is a fantastic writing implement. Minor issue #1 – The grip section is just a touch too thin for me. It’s not annoyingly thin. I just wish it was a few more millimeters wider to maximize the feel in my hand. Minor issue #2 – There’s no clip. Yes, you can buy a clip but it looks a bit too large for the sleek style of the pen and I hear it doesn’t hold the pen all that well. The lack of clip is actually a very minor complaint as this pen has been residing comfortably in my front pocket since I bought it a few weeks ago. I would; however, prefer that it could grab the lip of the pocket so that it never wiggles into an uncomfortable horizontal position while in my pocket. It rarely does this so minor issue #2 really is a minor issue.

Now, onto the reasons why I love this pen. First, the look. Just look at that color and minimalist design. Originally, I was thinking about snagging the gray AL Sport, but once I saw the blue color I quickly changed my mind. I’m not sure if my pictures show it well enough, but the blue body color does lean a bit towards the purple side of blue. The octagonal shape of the cap prevents the pen from going anywhere when resting on your desk and the silver Kaweco emblem on the cap is a sharp touch of bling. It’s true that you’re likely to make contact with the threads while writing but I don’t find the threads to be all that sharp so it’s a non-issue for me. Since the cap covers about half of the pen body when posted, the pen feels solid when writing.


Speaking of writing. I originally bought the pen with a medium nib. That was a mistake. The medium nib skipped a bit here and there and just didn’t give a great writing experience so I ordered a fine nib which turned out to be one of the best pen-related purchases I’ve made in a while. The pen absolutely positively sings with the steel fine nib. I haven’t experienced any skipping or dry ink issues with this smooth-writing fine nib. Any fountain pen that can put up with my lefty hook and come up aces each and every time is a welcomed addition to the collection. The writing shown here was done with the Kaweco blue cartridge that came with the pen.

If you were to ask me what are my two must have fountain pens right now I would probably go with my TWSBI Mini and this AL Sport. Both are rock solid performers and fit my hand well. This got me thinking that it seems that I prefer fountain pens with relatively small nibs. I think I control the pen easier with the smaller nibs and they seem to be more tolerant of my hooked and somewhat upright writing style.


Carry it, carry it, carry it, carry it!! The pen is great to write with, is a real looker and easy to take anywhere. Go buy one. Right now. I’m serious. Buy one right now!

The Kaweco AL Sport is like my Wilson Six.One 95 BLX tennis racquet. The AL Sport fits my writing style just like the Wilson racquet fits my tennis game. Both have a great feel and with just a bit of tweaking (grip wrap for the racquet and fine nib for the pen) they become a near perfect instrument for the task at hand.

Turns out I’m not the only one to review this great pen.
Fountain Pen Quest
Ed Jelley
Anderson Pens
SBRE Brown
The Clicky Post
The Pen Addict


Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln


We fountain pen users can be a picky bunch and spending a fair amount of money on a variety of pens only exasperates that pickiness.  Now, I’m going to have a few picky things to say about Retro 51’s Tornado Lincoln fountain pen, but don’t let these little issues dissuade you.  If you can find a Lincoln for $50 or less, buy one.  It’s a unique looking pen and it writes very, very well for a moderately priced pen.  Pair it up with a uniquely colored ink like Diamine Ancient Copper and you’ve got yourself a fun and classy combination.


Let me get my three points of pickiness, in descending order of annoyance, out of the way.  (1)  The metal body, which looks fantastic, gives way to a somewhat inexpensive-feeling plastic grip section.  The section is a touch slippery, although not discouragingly so, and doesn’t seem to hold its own with the stunning body and cap.  (2)  When posted, the pen is a tad too long for my taste and the balance is a bit top heavy.  Also, you have to push the cap on firmly to get an adequate post.  (3)  The converter doesn’t fit into the grip section as firmly as it should.  As you can see from the picture below, there is a step down from the main compartment of the converter to the portion that sits inside the grip section resulting in a bit of wiggle.  It does stay put, but you’ll want to be cognizant of the wiggle when separating the grip and body sections to avoid any ink accidents.  One the positive side, the available volume is somewhat larger than your average converter.


Persnicketiness out of the way, let’s get to the many good points of this fine pen.  The color.  My goodness the color.  Maybe it’s kitschy to make a pen look like a penny and name it Lincoln, but it works for me.  Importantly, the finish is not purely copper as there is a brush effect that blends the copper color with wisps of black giving the Lincoln a rich appearance.  The iconic Retro 51 knurling at the top of the cap provides a nice contrast against the smooth, brushed look of the rest of the pen.  I expect the finish will oxidize with time.  That’s fine with me; it will just make the pen more mine.


Now, it’s obvious why I decided to put Diamine Ancient Copper in the Lincoln.  However, it seems like I stumbled into a fantastic match as the nib has performed like a dream from the first stroke.  There hasn’t been a hint of skipping and the ride produced from this steel fine nib is generally smooth with a bit of feedback.  As you can see, I’m reviewing the pen using Rhodia which gives the smoothest feel you can expect; there definitely was more feedback on Field Notes.  Check it out.  Field Notes Drink Local and the Lincoln work well together don’t you think?  The nib was able to generate a bit of shading with this beautiful ink revealing colors ranging from a light copper to a deeper brown.


It’s a unique looking pen and writing with copper/brown colors may not be the most practical for every day use, but screw it, the Retro 51 and Ancient Copper combo rocks and should be within close reach at all times.  It’s a “Carry It” pen.  The slightly awkward length when posted might make it cumbersome to use for quick note taking, but the positives easily overcome this mild inconvenience.  Again, if you can find this pen with the nib size you want for under $50, it’s a no-brainer purchase.

The Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln is like a US penny.  Okay, that’s too easy.  How about this?  The Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln is like a good pair of casual brown leather shoes.  Both the Lincoln and a good pair of brown shoes look good from day one and neither really needs any break-in time.  Also, both should develop a character of their own over time.


What have others thought about this solid pen?
FP Quest
Pencil Case Blog
The Pen Habit

Once again…a gratuitous collage of pen and ink.


TWSBI Classic

What does it say if I’m inking a pen that’s still cold from sitting in my mailbox for a couple of hours?  If you said that I have problems, you’re probably right.  Then again, you’re reading a pen blog so who really has the problem?  Then again, I’m writing a pen blog…I’ll stop while I’m behind.


Onto the TWSBI Classic.  I went for the blue color which strikes me as a fairly typical midnight blue.  The cap and body have eight flat sides so the pen won’t be rolling off the desk, even when uncapped.  The cap has a simple, dare I say classic, look with a silver nut finish at the bottom.  The bottom of the body has a stainless knob that is used to fill a relatively small-capacity piston.  The grip section is round and features a small quarter-inch (that’s a bit more than half a cm for those using SI units) ink window on one end and what appears to be the same nib used on the TWSBI Mini on the other end.


To me, everything about this pen screams late ’50s/early ’60s design with the only nod to the modern being the bad ass TWSBI emblem at the top of the cap.  As you can see from the pictures, the uncapped TWSBI Classic is about 3/4 inch (2 cm in SI units) shorter than the posted TWSBI Mini.  While the cap does fit over the end of the Classic, it does not legitimately post.  Like the 580, this is a non-posting TWSBI.  Frankly, the lack of “postability” is a bit of a disappointment.  I guess it’s hard to have an octagonal body on a pen that can post, but I would think something named Classic would be able to do a classic pen thing like posting.  The Classic is also notably thinner at the grip section and lighter in the hand while writing when compared to the Mini.  If you like lighter pens combined with medium-to-thin grip sections, then the Classic is your TWSBI.


Given that the Classic is using the same nib as the Mini, the writing experience is familiar.  Compared to my Mini (F nib) loaded with Waterman Florida Blue, the Classic (F nib) writing with Diamine Majestic Blue put down a slightly thicker line but I suspect this was ink related.  I don’t have pictures here, but I did reload the Classic with Florida Blue and got a line thickness very much like the Mini.  If you’ve written with a Mini, just imagine a slightly thinner and lighter feel and you’ve got the Classic.  Now, this part might sound weird but if you’ve used pens enough you’ll get what I’m saying.  The Classic makes a satisfying plastic-on-plastic clicking sound as you take off or put on the cap.  You know the noise I’m talking about, right?  That noise that says, “I’m about to do some writing” or “I’m now finished writing” as you take off or put on the cap, respectively.  You’re reading this blog so of course you do.


It’s a TWSBI.  It’s has a simple and effective design.  It has all the hallmarks of a well-made pen.  But, it’s a bit light for my tastes.  I suspect the pen is going to fall somewhere between “Carry It” and “Desk It” for me.  It will frequently be inked and ready to go but it’s not likely to supplant my Mini in the pocket.

The TWSBI Mini is like a favorite Miles Davis album (at least the stuff he did before 1969 – don’t you dare diss the post 1968 stuff though).  The sound of a Miles Davis album is familiar yet undeniably original.  His music is readily accessible while also being continuously revealing.  I don’t listen to Miles Davis every day or even every week, but when I do I enjoy it thoroughly.  I don’t think I’ll be using the classic-looking yet original TWSBI Classic everyday, but when I do I suspect I’ll dig it.


Has anyone else reviewed the TWSBI Classic yet?  Amazingly enough, yes!
FP Geeks
FP Quest

Pilot Metropolitan

Psst…Hey buddy…You got $15?  That’s all it’s gonna take to get something I know you’re gonna dig.

Of all the “economy” class fountain pens available, none have a better quality to price ratio than the Pilot Metropolitan.  Are there less expensive fountain pens available?  Yes.  Are there better fountain pens to be had?  Without a doubt.  Is there a fountain pen with the build quality of a Pilot Metropolitan for less than $20?  Maybe, but I don’t know of one.Metropolitan2

The first, second and third things we fountain pen dorks care about is the writing experience.  If it doesn’t write well, then nothing else should matter.  After all, that’s why we’re using a darn fountain pen in the first darn place.  The stainless steel medium nib of the Pilot Metropolitan (PM) certainly delivers on this score. The only time I have any issues with the PM laying down a consistent line is when I’m circling from left to right and up with my writing motion.  Occasionally, the line will thin out or even skip when I’m working on a “O” shape (see how the “o” of “overwriting” is a bit thinner in the picture of my hand?) or when I’m transitioning between the downward and upward motions on a check mark.  I’m certain; however, that this minor issue has everything to do with the fact that I’m a left-handed “overwriter”.  Folks writing at a more traditional angle will have no problems and I’m willing to tolerate the very rare thinning/skipping to write with a nib that’s this smooth at this price.overwriter

As you can see from the pictures, I’ve already violated my habit of using Waterman Florida Blue (WFB) as my go-to reviewing ink.  Look, we both know this wasn’t going to last and besides, I got a whole bunch of inks for Christmas that I was “dyeing” (sorry) to use.  We have Diamine Majestic Blue and Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki in the silver and black pens, respectively.  (Finally, I’m able to spell “Iroshizuku” without having to look it up each time.)  I won’t say too much about these inks here other than to say that both write wetter than WFB.  Also, Majestic Blue is on the blacker side of blue than WFB and Iroshizuku Kon-peki is on the bluer side of blue than the slightly purple WFB.  My early preference is for the Majestic Blue over the Kon-peki, but I need to see the Kon-peki in a finer nib before I say too much.

Back to the PM and its appearance.  I would say the barrel is on the medium to thin/medium side when it comes to overall thickness in fountain pens and there is a noticeable step down from the body to the grip sections.  It has a classic, nearly seamless shape and feel when capped and the tapered clip works well with the overall look of the PM.  I mostly post this pen when writing as it feels just a bit too small and light when used sans post.  The PM has always come in black or silver with different pattern swatches on the body section.  Somewhat recently, Pilot issued a number of other finishes as well.  Honestly, I’m of two minds when it comes to all these color/pattern variations.  On the one hand, I would prefer that Pilot spend money providing alternatives for nib size (only available in medium) and/or offer a converter in the box (mine came with a con-20 sac).  On the other hand, the color and pattern variations are fun and offer buyers options for themselves or when buying a PM as a gift.  I guess Pilot knows better than I do; I bought the purple PM rollerball as a holiday present for a colleague.MetropolitanNib

The quality-to-cost ratio alone makes the Pilot Metropolitan a “Carry It” for me.  I don’t actually carry one in my pocket, but I frequently have both my black and silver PMs inked and ready to go in my bag or pen case.  I tend to load them with nontraditional colors (this review notwithstanding) to mark student assessments and write to-do-lists or other short notes in different colors.

The Pilot Metropolitan is like that favorite $9.99 bottle of wine that becomes a staple in a modest wine collection.  When you’re not sure what wine to have with dinner and/or you’re hesitant to open that $19.99 bottle, the $9.99 staple remains a great option.  Even if it doesn’t pair with the meal perfectly, it’s still better than having a diet soda.  So, get two or three and put whatever inks you want in your Pilot Metropolitans.  They’re a great go-to fountain pens that work for all your everyday needs.


Here are some other Pilot Metropolitan reviews (the PM may be the most widely reviewed pen of the last year or so):
SBRE Brown
Pen Addict
Well-Appointed Desk
Goulet Pens
Gourmet Pens
Ed Jelley
Pen Habit

Pelikan Souveran 405 Ballpoint

Pelikan3Here’s the deal – everyone needs to keep a ballpoint pen handy so why not make it a great looking one.  Enter the Pelikan Souveran 405 in black/blue/silver.  Like many folks who are a bit picky about their writing implements, I have a love/hate relationship with ballpoint pens.  I love them because they’re reliable, come in too many styles to count and, unlike fountain pens, aren’t all that fussy about paper choice (try writing on those self-stick Christmas tags with a fountain pen).  I hate ballpoint pens because…well, frankly, they’re as boring as a Bravo reality show.  To make matters worse, some refill makers have tried to glam up the ballpoint with a variety of colors and refill materials, most of which are just embarrassing.  More on this later.

Back to the Pelikan Souveran 405.  Like all my crummy pictures, the ones here do not do this pen, and it’s Pelikan ballpoint cousins, justice in the least.  I love, love, love the looks of the black/blue/silver combination.  For reasons I do not understand, I just don’t dig gold trim on my pens.  Now, a buttery Sailor nib made of gold is another matter completely, but gold trim doesn’t do it for me.  (If I stated my feelings on this matter using a combination of chemistry and social media syntax it would read:  Ag +1; Au -1.  Note:  the material on the 405 is actually palladium but we’re just talking color right now.)  For me, the success of the Souveran 405 and similar Pelikan ballpoints is all about the simple shape and perfect size.  Imagine if a Parker Jotter ate right and worked out a bit.  The result would be a Pelikan ballpoint.  The brands are similar in length but Pelikans are wider and therefore easier to hold.  Combine the ideal size with quality plastic materials, celluloid acetate to be specific, and the pen fits and feels wonderfully even if it’s “just a ballpoint”.Pelikan2

Alright, let’s talk refills a bit.  As you know, ballpoint refills come in many shapes and sizes and it seems that every year brings new hybrid, easyflow ballpoint inks.  Many of these proprietary ballpoint refills write wonderfully but, for now, let’s limit ourselves to the ubiquitous “Parker-style” refills.  Let me say this plainly – gel inks using the Parker type refills are garbage and even if they weren’t, they would remain a stupid idea.  Of all the ballpoint refills, Parker QuinkFlow are the best.  Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 are very good but I think QuinkFlow wins by a nose.  I’m fairly sure I’ve tried every gel ink Parker-style refill available in a variety of point sizes and they all, I mean every single one of them, do not work consistently well.  I occasionally get a blue Parker brand gel refill that writes well but it’s just too hit and miss and they also ooze silicone.  How Parker gets away with selling refills with such poor quality control is beyond me.  If all this wasn’t bad enough, we also have the dumb idea of colored  refills.  Why would I put a purple ballpoint or gel refill in a classy pen like the 405?  On the rare occasion I need something that isn’t blue or black, I’ll grab a fountain pen and a bottle of ink that fits my needs and/or mood or a purpose-built Pilot G2 or Pentel Energel.  Purple Parker refills that “bleed” like some sort of horror movie pen refill?  No thank you.

Pelikan1Once again, back to the Souveran 405…

You need to have a ballpoint handy.  This is a great looking one and with the right refill it works just dandy so “Carry It“.  There may not be a lot that separates one ballpoint from another other than your preference for looks.  I think the black/blue/silver Souveran looks great and the size and shape work for me.

The Souveran 405 is like a really good cheeseburger.  There are plenty of ways to make a decent burger but at the end of the day we’re still just talking about a cheeseburger.  I’m happy to pay a little extra for the angus, grass-fed beef and the fresh bun, even if we’re only talking about meat and bread, but putting a fried egg or a pork chop on the burger is the wrong way to eat a burger, egg or a pork chop.


Hey, you know what’s a really good pen – the TWSBI Mini.  This thing is a good-looking workhorse that never, I mean never, skips or has a false start.  This pen is so consistent and darn near perfect for my hand when posted that it has become the metric by which I compare all my other fountain pens.  Now, this is not to say that it’s the supreme writing pen I own or the most convenient to carry with me or my favorite pen to gaze upon, but it may be the one pen I own that balances these attributes best.twsbimini

I own the TWSBI Mini with a fine nib and the classic trim which consists of a clear plastic body along with a black grip section and a black cap.  The badass red TWSBI emblem completes the look at the top of the cap.  It’s certainly not a showy pen but the “diamond” body gives the crook of my thumb and forefinger something to hold while catching the light nicely.  Even though it’s a smaller pen, the piston filling barrel holds plenty of ink.  Given the modest amount of handwriting I do, I’ll clean the pen and swap ink colors well before running dry.

There is one minor drawback of the Mini for me – you have to twist the cap onto the end to post it.  Now, I like the ceremonial process of twisting open a fountain pen as much as the next person; it’s a neat moment of reflection before the actual writing begins.  But, having to twist to post is a bit of a hassle especially if you like to line up the clip with the nib.  Is that a bit overly anal retentive of me?  Sure, but if you’re a fountain pen user you know what I’m talking about.

The TWSBI Mini is absolutely a “Carry It” pen and that’s exactly what I do with this pen, everyday.  If it’s not in a shirt pocket next to a Night Sky Field Notes, it’s nestled in my jeans pocket or clipped near the buttons of a polo shirt.

My TWSBI Mini is like my Honda Civic.  Neither may be the best looking or best performing examples of what they are but they both balance looks and consistent functionality nicely.

Other reviews of the TWSBI Mini, featuring way better pictures and more technical details, are available at:
Anderson Pens
The Pen Addict
The Well-Appointed Desk
Ink Nouveau
FP Geeks