A Kaweco Trio

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I recently got a hold of three different Kaweco fountain pens so I thought it would be appropriate to review them side-by-side-by-side. The pens in question are a Kaweco Skyline Sport (~$25; F nib), a Kaweco AL Sport (~$75; M nib) and a Kaweco Student (~$55; B nib). The AL Sport I have here is the raw aluminum finish. I reviewed, positively, an AL Sport in blue several months ago. I have not done many multiple pen reviews, so to make this process a bit more streamlined I’ve come up with a few categories (build quality, balance in hand, nib experience, overall) to guide the comparison.

Build Quality
In first place we have the AL Sport. Of course, being made out of aluminum gives the AL Sport a serious advantage. This is not to say that the other pens are poorly made. In fact, the Kaweco Student, with its thick plastic walls and solid clip, comes in a close second with respect to build quality. The Skyline Sport is an all plastic pen with somewhat thinner walls than the Student. As a result, the Sport is noticeably lighter. I won’t say the Skyline Sport has a cheap feel to it, but of the three pens it does have the least confidence-inducing build.

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Kaweco AL Sport

Balance
I was unable to find the perfect porridge between these three pens when it comes to balance. The closest to perfect would be the AL Sport but it has to be posted in order to feel balanced in the hand. Unposted, the Sport and AL Sport are just too short to feel comfortable for anything more than a quick note. Also, with its all plastic build, the Skyline Sport (~0.4 ounces) is just too light for me. I prefer to notice that I’m holding onto something when it comes to my pens, especially fountain pens. I don’t have great penmanship to start with and pens that are too light feel like they get away from me when I write. The AL Sport gives a nice ride when posted but I’m not a big fan of the raw aluminum finish as it feels a bit too slippery. My blue AL Sport doesn’t feel nearly as slippery to me so I’m guessing the anodized finish adds something to the grip.

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Kaweco Student

When it comes to balance, the Kaweco Student is an interesting pen. Unposted, it was too short and the metal grip section too slippery. Posted, the pen was quite a bit longer so my grip naturally moved further back on the grip section and more towards the body of the pen. Either way, I couldn’t get it to sit in my hand nicely. But, and this is an important but, if you hold your pens somewhat higher up on the grip then I suspect a posted Kaweco Student could really work nicely for you. Helpfully, the threads on the body of the Student are not sharp in the least so they make a suitable gripping location.

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Nib
Save for the line width, all three pens appear to use identical steel nibs. My experience with these pens and their different nib sizes is identical to my previous interactions with Kaweco nibs. The fine nib rocks! I’ve never had skipping issues with Kaweco’s fine nibs. They write smoothly and lay down a consistent line. The broad nib isn’t my thing but that’s not Kaweco’s problem. It’s just that I’m not a broad nib kind of guy. I’ve tried. I’ve tried multiple times. There’s just no getting around it – I don’t dig broad nibs. Please send your hate mail to idontcare@dontcare.com :-). Now for the medium nib. Maybe it’s the way I hold my fountain pens, but I have yet to meet a Kaweco medium nib that works well for me. They don’t start readily and they constantly skip. I’m willing to take all the blame for this issue with medium nibs but that’s just the way it is. In short, medium nib – yuk, broad nib – not me, fine nib – yes, yes, yes!

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Kaweco Skyline Sport

Overall
If I were to recommend a Kaweco fountain pen it would be an AL Sport with a fine nib in a colored finish. Hold on, I already recommended that pen. The regular Sport doesn’t float my boat. It’s too light and there are other inexpensive alternatives that give a better ride. The Kaweco Student is very well made and the blue color of the pen I got is a real looker. I do think you need to naturally hold your pen further away from the nib than I tend to otherwise you may find the balance of the Student a bit off. The AL Sport in raw aluminum looks great and has an nice balance when posted but I like my aluminum pens to be anodized for that extra bit of grip.

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If you’d like a chance to nab a Skyline Sport or Student for yourself, stay tuned. These two pens will be part of a giveaway in the near future.

Kaweco was kind enough to send these three pens to me at no expense. I’m human so their kindness may have influenced my perspective but I attempted to give an honest review nonetheless.

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Pens For Sale

Like most pen nerds, my need to buy more pens is ever present. But, funds are not ever lasting. So, to finance some future purchases I thought I would put up a few pens that are perfectly functioning but just don’t get the use they deserve. I could post these to ebay, but I thought I’d save myself the trouble of creating three different listings and give the folks who read ThatOnePen the first crack at these fine fountain pens. All three of the pens below have been in my possession for a year or less. They have all been inked and used to some extent. The Vanishing Point has received the most use and is clearly in the used category. It has a few blemishes on the body of the pen but the nib and button mechanism are in perfect working order. The Invincia and the Lincoln have been used very, very little and I would describe them as being all but new / just like new. As far as I can see, the Invincia and Lincoln are free of any marks or blemishes.

Here are the basic details and prices. All prices include shipping with tracking within the US. I’ll consider shipping overseas but we’ll need to negotiate pricing. I have the original boxes for all three pens and so I’ll list two prices – one with the box and one without. Pricing reflects differences in expected shipping costs with or without the box.

Pilot Vanishing Point – Used – (M) nib – Matte Black Finish (typically goes for $140 new)
$100 w/ original box (the box is a bit big so I need to factor that into the cost here)
$90 without box (SOLD)

Monteverde Invincia Chrome and Carbon – All But New – (F) nib (typically goes for $80 new)
$65 w/ original box
$60 without box

Retro 51 Lincoln – All But New – (F) nib (typically goes for $50 new)
$40 w/ original box
$35 without box (SOLD)

Feel free to make me an offer other than what you see here, especially if you would like to buy multiple pens.

If you would like to buy one of these pens, please send an email to thatonepen@gmail.com. I’ll send you an invoice via paypal and will mail the pen(s) as soon as possible but certainly within two business days after I receive your payment.

Here are several pictures of the all three pens.

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Some close ups of the Pilot Vanishing Point

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You can see some of the blemishes on the Vanishing Point in the picture above. They’re entirely cosmetic as the pen works perfectly in every aspect.

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Some close ups of the Monteverde Invincia

IMG_0359This pen is essentially brand new. I think I inked it once with Waterman Florida Blue.

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Some close ups of the Retro 51 Lincoln

IMG_0368The finish really is brand new on this pen.
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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.

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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!

 

“Stone” Paper (Da Vinci Notebook)

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Q. What do egg shells and paper have in common? A. They are both made of calcium carbonate. At least the “stone” paper from this Kickstarter project is made from the same stuff as egg shells. Nick, the creator of the Da Vinci Notebook, sent me a sample of this interesting paper and I decided to put it through a few paces.

The first thing you’ll notice about the stone paper is that it feels very soft and that there is almost no discernible texture to the paper. The phrase “smooth as a baby’s bottom” comes to mind. It also has some heft to it. I cannot find the paper weight in the information that Nick sent me but I’d guess that a single sheet of stone paper weighs about the same as at least 3 sheets of Rhodia. Seems to me that a 100 page, 5″ x 8″ notebook of this stuff would weigh a pound or more. Lastly, in the initial impression category, would be the color. The paper has a flat white color to it. It is not bright white like most copy paper but it is not in the cream color range either. I’d call it flat or off-white or soft white. Whatever name fits the color best, the important point is that it’s easy on the eyes. The paper is also described as water and tear resistant. I’d agree that it does have some water repellency, but it didn’t seem to take much more effort to tear than the decent copy paper I have. When it does tear, it seemed to do so neatly without many fibers showing along the tear line.

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How does the paper perform? Well, it depends. For most pen and ink combinations it performed well and felt smooth. For a couple of pen and ink combinations it was more or less, as the kids might say, epic fail. Let’s take a look at pictures of particular pen/ink combinations.

First, my go-to-non-fountain-pen-of-choice, the Pentel Energels. I’m happy to say that the Energels took to the stone paper like a fish to water. This was especially true of the wider 0.7 mm point. In my experience, Energels write well on most paper surfaces but they felt particularly smooth on the stone paper and laid down a solid and consistent line.

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Unfortunately, the dry times for the Energels on the stone paper were less than ideal. Energels are, in my experience, the fastest drying gels pens on the market today but something about the gel chemicals and the stone paper inhibits drying times. Regardless, there is smearing evident, even at the 10 second mark. That said, the writing experience is so smooth with the gel/stone paper combination that I might be willing to take my time writing and enjoy the ride.

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What about fountain pens? Well, the few that I tried did not fare particularly well. My fine nib Kaweco AL Sport with Kaweco Blue did reasonably well. The writing was smooth but there was a touch of feathering on a letter or two. My TWSBI Mini, also with a fine nib and sporting Kon Peki, was less successful as the sharper point of the TWSBI dug into the stone paper a bit. You can see the digging in with the “T” of TWSBI in the pictures below. My Parker Vacumatic (also fine, also Kon Peki) was the one epic fail of the lot. All in all, I think good results could be obtained with a rounded fine nib and less slippery inks, but I did not immediately find a fountain pen/ink combination that worked like a charm with the stone paper.

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Let me finish with the pen/ink combinations that took to the stone paper best. Hybrid and ballpoint inks did very, very well on this paper. Color saturation was amazing (on par with gel inks) and the dry times were nearly instantaneous. I think I can use a touch of chemistry to explain why the ballpoints worked so well. Apparently, the stone paper is made with 80% calcium carbonate and 20% non-toxic resin (I’m guessing these are weight percentages). Ballpoint and, to a less extent, hybrid inks are oil-based (i.e. hydrocarbon) media which I suspect bind effectively with the resin (i.e. hydrocarbon) of the stone paper. Interestingly, my Lamy rollerball (water-based ink) also wrote nicely and dried quickly on the stone paper but a post-writing water test showed some differences. The water-based rollerball ink and the gel inks smeared noticeably after dabbing with water but the hybrid and ballpoint inks held up great.

For what it’s worth, I also used some pencils on the stone paper. Very sharp and hard points dug into the paper too much, but softer/wider leads wrote smoothly. You can see the evidence of digging into the paper by the bits of embossing on the back.

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Let’s conclude. Fountain pens and inks? Probably not. Gel pens and inks? Yes, but take your time to avoid smearing. Rollerball inks? Yes (but avoid water as always with rollerball inks). Ballpoint and hybrid inks? Yes, absolutely, my goodness yes! In fact, I decided to back the Kickstarter project for the Da Vinci Notebook based solely on the positive results I saw with ballpoint and hybrid inks. Backer options start at $12 on Kickstarter so trying the notebook for yourself won’t cost too much.

On a related note, Oxford makes a stone paper notebook that is available from Walgreens of all places (Sorry, I can’t bring myself to put a link to Walgreens on my blog). After playing with the Da Vinci Notebook paper sample, I ran over to my local Walgreens and got lucky. The paper in the Oxford book does have a similar texture and also provides a smooth writing feel. However, the Oxford paper is noticeably thinner than the Da Vinci Notebook sample. In fact, the page beneath the current page does become slightly embossed from writing in the Oxford notebook. I’m happy to have the Oxford notebook to play around with more stone paper, but I’m hopeful that the Kickstarter Da Vinci Notebooks will be a clear step up in quality.

A sample of the stone paper was provided to me free of charge by the creator of the Da Vinci Notebook Kickstarter project. Opinions and perspectives are entirely my own.

Parker Vacumatic

 

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I believe this is the first vintage pen I’ve reviewed on That One Pen and boy is it a nice one to start with. First, let me be honest here, I don’t know much about vintage pens. I’m certainly not a vintage collector but seeing so many Parker Vacumatics and Parker 51s at the Philadelphia and Long Island pen shows put the vintage bug in my ear. So, I spent some time surfing the fountain pen forums and ebay listings looking for a quality vintage pen and eventually came across this Parker Vacumatic on ebay. It has been wonderfully restored and, compared to prices I was seeing at the pen shows, I think I got a reasonably good deal. It wasn’t a steal by any stretch, but I feel comfortable that I got very good value for my dollar. Importantly, of all the Vacumatics out there, I’ve always liked the ones with the black and blue checkered look so I’m especially happy to find this little gem.

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I’ve been using the pen consistently for about a week now and, although not a perfect writer, it’s darn close. I’m thinking seriously about sending the pen off to get the nib tweaked a bit. Given the investment I’ve already put into the pen, a few more bucks to get the nib closer to perfect would make some sense. It is a fine nib but to me, it writes closer to a medium. Actually, the best way to describe the writing would be to call it a wet fine. So, I might send it off to get the nib thinned a bit and maybe get closer to a wet, extra fine writer. The pen is currently loaded with Kon Peki which flows especially well. I may try something like Parker Quink or Waterman Florida Blue that might be a bit stingier with the flow. I’m open to other suggestions as well. Do you have an ink you use in pens that write just a bit too wet for your tastes?

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In terms of size and feel, the Vacumatic is also close to perfect. The posted length of the pen is ideal for my relatively small hands. The grip width is just a touch on the thin side for what I prefer but still comfortable. The gold nib is fairly small and matches the overall design of the pen beautifully. Even though the pen has been restored, everything about the writing experience just screams vintage to me. It’s a cool feeling writing with something so old yet so effective.

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Filling the Vacumatic could not be easier. Insert the nib into the ink bottle and depress the plunger 5 or 6 times and you’re ready to go. Being a restored pen, the tension of the plunger is tight but not too tight. I don’t have a lot of experience with Vacumatic plungers, but this one seems to work as well as these systems should. As you can see, there is a cap that covers the plunger and there is no discernible seam between this cap and the body when closed. Again, an old pen that just plain looks and works great.

Rating
I really, really dig this pen. It most certainly would be a “Carry It” pen for me, but the cost of the pen and the fact that it is vintage most likely means that it will not spend a lot of time in my pocket. For now, I’m keeping it in a pen case and leaving it safely on my desk when not in use. I suspect, as time passes, the reins will be loosened.

Analogy
Frankly, I’m having trouble with coming up with an analogy here. The Parker Vacumatic may be the oldest thing I own. It’s certainly the oldest thing I own that gets used on a regular basis. So, think of something old that is also cool looking and still works like a charm and you’ve got a good analogy for the Parker Vacumatic. In short, it’s a winner!

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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…

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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).

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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.

BexleyAdmiralConverter

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.

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Kaweco AL Sport

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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.

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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.

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Rating
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!

Analogy
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

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