BASIC? The Faber-Castell Basic Black Fountain Pen

Faber-Castell Basic Black Carbon Fiber
Basic? Really?

Because I’m so pleased with the look, heft, and performance of my Faber-Castell e-motion pen, I did a bit of research on the brand, and liked the look (and price!) of the BASIC Black model. Amazingly, a few days after adding the BASIC model to my pen wish list, it popped up as the Daily Special in an email from the Pen Boutique, for a mere $28. I think you know the rest of the story.

So what do I like, besides the price? Let’s take a tour.

Carbon Fiber Barrel
As I’ve said before, there’s something about carbon fiber that grabs me every time. And carbon fiber for $28? Unheard of. I can’t find anything that says that this is pseudo-carbon fiber, so I’m assuming it’s the real deal. The subtle checkerboard effect is quietly cool. The pen has perfect heft, but is not as heavy as the e-motion due to the lack of a metal cap. Ooooooo…one more thing…the barrel is long enough to hold a spare ink cartridge so you’re always prepared to write.

Carbon fiber barrel

Rubberized & Grooved Grip
At 1-1/2″, this is a good-sized grip. And it’s rubbery, so it’s nicely grippy. The rubber is quite firm, but not SO firm that it winds up being slippery. The evenly spaced grooves add a bit of interest and “tread,” so holding on feels natural and easy.

That Nib
So smooth. And quite wet. I’d say that this pen runs a hair wetter than the e-motion. In fact, the wetness was a bit of a challenge at first. I initially inked the BASIC pen with a Private Reserve Lake Placid Blue cartridge (a converter is not included, and I don’t have a spare, as yet). I love that color, but I write small and fairly slow, and this particular ink in this particular pen was super wet. I had trouble keeping up with the ink. After a bit, I swapped in a Levenger Black cartridge, and the flow became much more manageable. The nib is a medium, so the flow is generous, but it’s no longer a gusher. In fact, I quite like the bold, smooth flow now. Every now and then I experience a touch of a hard start at the beginning of a writing session, but once I get going, the flow is fine. That issue, I suppose, could also be related to the ink as I don’t recall noticing that with the Private Reserve cartridge.

Nib & grip

Rubberized Cap
Like the grip, the cap is also rubberized, which gives this portion of the pen a nice black matte look. The branding (name, logo, and founding date) is imprinted into the cap, so it’s there, but barely so. A classy look, I think. I do find that crumbs and lint tend to find their way into the imprint (grrrr…look at the “F” below), but it’s not really noticeable until you blow up a photo. The cap snaps into place with a firm and convincing click.

Rubberized cap

Posting the cap makes the pen too looooong to hold (7-1/2″), while the unposted pen measures 5-1/4″ and feels just right.

Posted
Posted

Spring-loaded Clip
The clip has a cool looking profile and is very strong and springy. Great attributes in a clip. Because of the grippiness of the rubber cap and the springiness of the clip, the pen stays put. No worries there.

Spring-loaded clip

According the the Faber-Castell website, the BASIC line is also available in Leather and Mother-of-Pearl (and as ballpoints and rollerballs). Pretty much something for everyone.

When I hear “basic,” I think stripped down and generic. Though this pen has simple lines, it’s full of Faber-Castell goodness. Nothing BASIC here.

Moods & Options: Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus

Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus
Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (or Ti, for short)

I regularly prowl Kickstarter for interesting pen projects, and try to get in as early as possible to get an Early Backer Reward. When I saw the write-up and introductory video for the Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (clunky name, sweet pen) by Chadwick Parker & Joe Huang, a couple of details grabbed me right away. (I just accidentally typed “write away,” which, maybe, is what I SHOULD say.)

#1: Titanium. Titanium through and through- from tip to tail (as long as you don’t count the tip of the refill and the stylus end). I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about titanium when I backed this project, but I knew that this pen would be strong and a bit hefty. Which it is. It sure is.

#2: Bead-blasted finishes. I love a matte finish on a pen, so seeing this pen offered in bead-blasted matte black and matte silver, as well as highly polished chrome (potentially too fingerprinty for me), drew me in a little deeper.

#3: “Most refill friendly pen ever!” Once I read that, I knew I was a goner. The number of refills that fit into this pen is as long as your arm (so to speak), and that was truly intriguing to me. I’m a bit of a fickle pen person, and my pen mood swings wildly from day to day, and sometimes, even within a day (or an hour). Knowing that I could swap in a bunch of my favorite refills (from Pilot’s Frixion, G2, and Hi-Tec-C Cavalier gel refills, to the hybrid ink Jetstream, and even a Montblanc Fineliner) meant that one pen body would last through my many pen mood swings.

#4: Bonus–> Stylus! I’m on some sort of iDevice a million times a day and having a great stylus sounded awesome, if only as a way to cut down on smudgy, fingerprinty screens. And if I could use it to draw and jot “handwritten” digital notes on my iPhone and iPad, all the better.

So I backed the project, and waited a few months while Chadwick & Joe updated us throughout the entire pen manufacturing process. Their dedication and unwillingness to settle for anything but a superior product became evident as they documented their progress and even fessed up to the occasional hiccup. The project was delayed a bit when they noticed that caps and bodies bead-blasted in different machines were not perfectly color-matched, which caused them to refine the process to correct the problem. “Good enough” is not good enough for this team.

So the pen arrived a little bit late, but who cares? The Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus delivers, which is all that matters.

The pen came loaded with a Pilot G2 0.5 mm refill, but I swapped in a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Cavalier 0.4 mm refill and wrote away. Then I decided I wanted to try a Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill, and that fits perfectly and writes great, too.

Ti G2 0.38 mm refill writing sample
Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill in use

The clip is sturdy (titanium, too!) and just flexible enough to clip the pen to your pocket. I’ve been doing this for weeks without an issue. The branding is super-subtle- just a a small, boxed Ti on the clip.

Ti clip
Ti clip and branding

Here’s a peak at the stylus, which, by the way, is the best stylus that I’ve used to date. Not too squooshy, not too stiff, and very responsive. I love the pen almost as much for the stylus end as I do for the pen end. Should you not WANT a stylus, the stylus can be replaced with a flat end cap, but really, why would you want to do that?!

Stylus
Just right

Here are a couple of shots of the pen posted and unposted…

Posted pen

Unposted

With the cap posted, the pen is WAY too long for me, so I always use it unposted. Not an issue for me, but something to keep in mind.

The “grip” area features three grooves, but quite honestly, I can’t really feel them when I hold the barrel. Personally, I don’t find the barrel to be slippery, but, again, something to consider.

Ti grip area
Ti’s grip

It’s getting late so let’s sum up…

Pros:
Titanium
Hefty! (38 g, when loaded with refill)
Excellent stylus
Choice of finishes…matte AND polished
Wide, wide range of compatible refills
Sturdy clip

Cons:
Very long when posted
Ummm…nothing else, in my opinion.

Want one? Even though the Kickstarter campaign is over, they’re now available at bigidesign (as are the aluminum and pint-sized counterparts). This is not a sponsored post. Chadwick and Joe only know me as Backer # whatever. I’m just really impressed with this pen.

Finally a pen that has as many refill options as I have pen moods. And THAT’S saying something.

Not beige: Lamy Safari Apple Green 2012 Limited Edition (EF nib)

My cousin and I are a lot alike. We both tend to gravitate towards “earth colors” and muted tones. Karen once joked that her autobiography should be titled My Life Is Beige, as she stood in a check-out line with a fistful of khaki-colored and taupe socks. So could mine, Karen. So could mine.

When I select pens, I often gravitate towards the subtle or stealthy colors…matte black, gunmetal, and the like. (I think it’s genetic.) There are exceptions, to be sure, like the Edison Collier Persimmon Swirl, which is eye-poppingly gorgeous. And very bright. But generally speaking, I’m drawn to the blacks and silvers and subtle patterns.

Apple Green Lamy Safari
Prescription for seasonal doldrums

But not this time of year. The Christmas lights are quickly disappearing and the skies are a dull grey. It’s easy to start feeling very BLAH at this point in the winter, especially because we still have months of limited sunlight left.

Maybe that’s why I had the urge to start using my Apple Green Lamy Safari this week. It’s anything BUT blah. Subtlety is NOT its strong-point.

Apple Green Lamy Safari
Want some sunglasses with that pen?

The EF nib on the Safari is no-nonsense, quite stiff, and very plain. I’ve gotten used to seeing nibs with curlicues, scrollwork, and logos, and there’s none of that here. The Lamy Safari nib is a real workhorse that never fails to do its job.

Lamy EF nib
Amish nib…plain and strong

I filled this pen with J. Herbin’s Eclat de Saphir, a favorite blue. The combination of the neon green pen and warm, lovely blue ink just POPS.

Eclat de Saphir (J. Herbin)
Eclat de Saphir by J. Herbin

The iconic Lamy clip is sturdy, yet flexible enough. Eric Schneider, one of the FPGeeks, once said that it reminds him of one of those WHEE-LO toys we had as kids, and I absolutely agree. (Remind me again…why did we think WHEE-LO was fun?!)

Lamy clip
Clip ala Lamy

SO, here we are mid-January, and I’m holding a pen that screams “WAKE UP!!” And while I’m writing, I do.

Follow the Leaders: Faber-Castell e-motion Fountain Pen (M nib)

Faber-Castell e-motion Parquet
F-C e-motion, Parquet

I first saw this pen here.

Hmmm…buttery smooth nib. That phrase will get my attention EVERY time.

I did a little more stalking, and watched this review. (Same pen, just in the Croco style.) More confirmation of an ultra-smooth nib.

Buttery nib
ARE you buttery smooth?

With both Dan and Stephen on board, how could I go wrong? So I shopped around, but waited until I had some Christmas money to make my purchase. After Christmas, I spent a few days re-reading and re-watching the reviews (as is my MO), then pondered the eternal fountain pen question…which size nib? ¬†As I mulled this over, I chatted with a pen friend on Twitter and casually mentioned that the e-motion was going to be my next pen purchase. Then another tweet popped up, this one from Dan Smith (one of the FPGeeks himself!). Turns out he had an e-motion for sale, brand new, medium nib, great price. Sold! Talk about good timing.

The pen arrived on Saturday, and looked like this…

Faber-Castell packaging
Anticipation

then this…

Getting there
Getting there

then, finally, this…

Revealed
Revealed

I filled the pen with my go-to black ink…Montblanc’s Mystery Black, then wrote and wrote and wrote. Mostly nonsense, but still.

The Faber-Castell is exactly as I hoped it would be…heavy, well-balanced, great looking, and yes…very smooth. The nib is stainless steel and lovely. Of the pens I own, I’d rank it as my 3rd smoothest, JUST behind the Sensa Meridian and the Tiger Stripey by Ken Cavers. High praise, indeed.

The black resin body is laser-etched with a parquet pattern that looks a little like braided leather. The pen is HEFTY, but not at all cumbersome, unless you post the cap. The chrome cap is quite substantial and adds just a bit too much weight to the back end. It’s not impossible to write with the cap posted (and I do, sometimes), but I generally prefer to use the pen unposted.

Parquet
Laser-etched parquet

The chrome cap, grip, and end cap SHINE. I love the shine, but because I’m a little OCD, I feel the need to polish it up with a microfiber cloth to get rid of the inevitable fingerprints. (My husband’s like this with cars. I’m like this with pens. Two peas. One pod.)

Chrome cap & spring-loaded clip
Chrome cap and clip

The spring loaded clip is wonderfully curved (a bit like a ski jump, as Stephen notes in his video). I haven’t carried it in a pocket, so I can’t comment on how well the clip keeps the pen in place, but it FEELS like it’d do the job just fine.

Though I lean toward fine and extra-fine nibs, I’m glad that this medium nibbed pen serendipitously came my way. It’s a joy to use, to look at, and to polish. The line is bold and, as has been stated (and stated) super smooth.

Writing sample
e-motion notes

I had a feeling that Dan and Stephen wouldn’t steer me wrong, and at least as far as the Faber-Castell e-motion fountain pen goes, I was right to follow the leaders.

Faber-Castell e-motion
Color me impressed

Thanks, guys!

Kudos: Handcrafted Pen Made From Exotic Wood by David Allred

Exotic Wood Pen
Exotic Wood Pen made from Zebra Wood

David Allred’s pen was a Kickstarter first for me. While the majority of Kickstarter projects come in weeks or even months later than originally projected, David’s pen arrived EARLY…significantly early. Though I wasn’t expecting to receive my pen until January 2013, it surprisingly arrived on November 23rd, 2012. Wow!

Though David’s Kickstarter project has closed, you can read about his pens here. In short, he can create pens with a variety of exotic wood (desert iron wood, padauk, purple heart, cocobolo, goldfield burl, etc.) and metal components. The hardest part is picking a wood/metal combination because there are so many intriguing options. All pens are twist-style and take Parker-style refills.

Exotic Wood Pen

After much hemming and hawing, I chose Zebra wood and the black metal trim. (David calls this “gunmetal,” which is different than my idea of gunmetal, but I settled on this choice after a few back-and-forth emails with him to clarify the various color options.) The pen is hefty, but not unwieldy, and is very well-balanced. It arrived with a Parker-style ballpoint refill, which wasn’t bad, but I recently swapped in a Moleskine rollerball 0.5mm refill, which, I think, elevates the pen yet another notch.

Zebra wood pen
Zebra stripey

You can see a sample of the wood/metal combinations available on David’s Kickstarter page. And though, as I’ve said, his project is now closed, I encourage you to contact David if you’re interested in getting your own “exotic wood” pen.

Exotic pen w/ David's info
How to contact David

I can personally attest to his impressive workmanship and work ethic.

Kudos, David. Kudos.