Lifesaver: Monteverde Artista Crystal Wild Stripe Fountain Pen

Those who know me in real life know that this has already been a peculiar year with a bunch of unfortunate occurrences. We’ve had health issues with two of our three Silky Terriers (one was very serious, but all is well now) and lost one of our dear kitties to renal failure. My mother slipped in the house and fractured her wrist. My nieces were in a car accident that totaled their car, but, thankfully, not their bodies or spirits. My glasses broke. My car was sideswiped (hit-and-run) while parked causing $6000 in damages. I’m about ready to kick 2014 to the curb and it’s barely gotten started.

It’s easy to start taking all of this crap personally, which is stupid, I know. And it’s easy to start feeling down and anxious.

The grey, crazy cold winter weather isn’t helping.

I’m not going to suggest that a pen cures all ills, but I have found one that perks up my spirits a bit— The Monteverde Artista Crystal Wild Stripe Fountain Pen. I’ve started receiving a periodic email from the Yafa Outlet and sometimes browse through their offerings, EVEN THOUGH I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to make a bunch of pen purchases this year. Well, the Wild Stripe quickly caught my eye, and I resisted for awhile, but in the end, I caved. The stripes are just too cool. And the price was right— $57.50 (50% off of the $115 MSRP).

Monteverde Artista Crystal Wild Stripe

The pen is made via their new Laminata process, which Monteverde describes better than I can:

Specially formulated, liquid acrylic resins are poured layer-upon-layer. Each layer is cured before the next layer is added. Monteverde’s exclusive Laminata™ technique takes far more time, but produces much better results compared to the previous “Cut & Glue” method.

After all of the acrylic layers have cured, the Laminata™ acrylic slab is hand-cut, hand-lathed, and hand-drilled. The pens are beautifully designed, and engineered for their beauty and functionality. The pens are then hand-polished to an heirloom quality luster.

What I didn’t initially realize is that the colored stripes are translucent. So when you hold the pen up to a light, or shine a flashlight into the cap, the colors glow. Not that I routinely walk around with this pen and a flashlight…or do I?!

Illuminated stripes

The nib isn’t earth shattering in looks or pedigree. It’s small (#5?) and says only, “Iridium Point” with some generic scrolling. That being said, it’s a smooth writer with just a touch of feedback. I’ve never had an issue with skipping or hard starts. I have noticed that while writing a letter or the rough draft of a blog post, the pen will sometimes write very wet, then less wet (never dry), then wetter again. I’m not sure why it does that but since it never runs to the dry side, I’m not bothered by this quirk.

The feed is clear, and this amuses me almost as much as the translucent rings. I get a kick out of seeing the feed turn the color of my ink— in this case, J. Herbin’s Eclat de Saphir.

Monteverde Artista Crystal wild Stripe

The threaded cap posts, but takes a bit of oomph to do so. In fact, at first I thought it didn’t post, but the pictures on the Yafa Outlet site clearly show the cap posted, so I gave it another go. The unposted pen measures 4.5 inches while the posted pen measures a more comfortable 6 inches.

When I posted a photo on Twitter, John Martinez (@iamthefollows) replied “Pretty! Lifesaver pen?” I had to agree that his description fits this pen perfectly. The colored rings absolutely look like a roll of Lifesaver candies.

And while a pen can’t be an actual lifesaver, it CAN be a mood saver. This pen has been that for me. Amidst all of the crap that life’s tossed my way lately, I’m having a blast writing letters and journaling with this cheery striped pen with the clear feed. It’s fun. It’s quirky. It’s not perfect.

Monteverde Artista Crystal Wild Stripe

Just like life.

White Christmas 2013

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White Christmas

We had a surprise coating of snow last night and the sun is shining so the world looks fresh and clean. The day is a little odd as Fred is working until 3, so he’ll be late to the festivities at my parents’. But we’re looking forward to a week long break— a chance to catch our breath and venture off for a field trip or two. THAT’S our present.

My “White Christmas” pens were not received as Christmas gifts, but are gifts nonetheless because they connect me to you— my family, my friends, and this great pen community. They truly ARE the gift that keeps on giving.

Happy Christmas to you.

-Mary

Ink With a Twist: Levenger’s Facets Fountain Pen

Levenger’s Facets fountain pen caught my eye a while back, but I didn’t make my move until a sale popped up. I love that— getting a deal on a pen that’s been on my radar.

Levenger Facets FP (Oxblood)

As my fountain pen collection grows, I find myself dismissing pens that don’t offer something a little different. (Don’t hold me to that— I’ll randomly throw that rule out the window when I feel like it.) This pen brings a number of interesting features to the table— the rich/warm color, the shimmering depths of the resin, and, of course, the gently spiraling facets of the cap and body. All of these add up to a pen that’s as great to look at as it is to use.

Facets Fountain Pen

Levenger calls the color of the pen “oxblood,” but to me it looks more like burgundy wine— or very interesting grape juice (which, I guess, is what wine IS). There’s a swirly marbleized effect that gives the pen’s resin more depth and interest than I can capture in my photos. It’s one of those fun-to-stare-at-while-twirling pens because the light, bouncing off of those facets, brings out a gorgeous range of purples and deep pinks. It’s like like looking into a purpley hologram. Mesmerizing.

Facets Fountain Pen

I’ve filled this cartridge/converter pen with Noodler’s Black Swan In English Roses a color I WOULD call “oxblood”—that satisfies my “ink should match pen” need. It doesn’t hurt that I’m fascinated with the name of that ink.

Inked with Black Swan In English Roses

Levenger’s Facets fountain pen is only available with a medium stainless steel nib, but it’s a very smooth and juicy writer. To my eye, it leans just a hair to the fine side, so it works well for me as an everyday writer. I have yet to have an issue with a Levenger nib and this pen just continues that streak of excellent nibbage. The pen wrote right out of the box and hasn’t sputtered or hesitated since. I can get a line from the pen even when I apply very little pressure. It’s just superb.

Facets Fountain Pen

The threaded cap posts solidly, and I’m finding that the pen feels well-balanced both posted and unposted. The body is lightweight (22.7 g/0.8 oz) but still feels, and looks, substantial. The pen measures 5-9/16″ when capped, 6-3/8″ posted, and 5-7/8″ unposted, and has enough room in the barrel to store a spare cartridge. With its chrome trim and clip, this is one sharp pen.

Levenger Facets Pen

There is one piece of bad news— it appears that the Oxblood version is no longer available from Levenger. There IS, though, a Midnight Blue version that’s still available. And I think you’ll probably be able to find the Oxblood version if you do a little hunting around online.

So if you’re looking for a pen with sparkling good looks, a wonderful nib, and just enough of a twist to keep things interesting, Levenger’s Facets fountain pen delivers. I think it’s a beauty.

Notes: Though this may sound like a commercial, I was not compensated in any way for this review. I’m just a very satisfied Levenger customer.

Conference swag

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I’m at a weeklong conference, so no real review this week. But I DID spend the afternoon at a scientific trade show where I picked up a tote bag full of conference swag. Not surprisingly, I hone in on the vendors offering office supplies. By the end of the day, I accumulated a nice supply of ballpoints (most were unremarkable, though one appears to take Cross style refill and is uncharacteristically excellent), a few gels pens, a few black pencils, notepads, one notebook, and a very cool little book of sticky notes.

And, yes, vendors…I judge you by your swag.

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A syringe highlighter? Yes, please.

I’ll continue my quest in the morning. An empty tote bag awaits!

TWSBI 803 Micarta, Version 2: The Saga

TWSBI Micarta, v2
TWSBI Micarta 803, v2 (EF nib, clipless version)

I stumbled onto the FPGeeks podcast about a year or so ago, and it became an immediate staple in my car when I was driving to and from anywhere. I didn’t really understand the lingo (in fact, those first conversations often reminded me of my early days in calculus class, where the professor’s voice devolved into one long unintelligible hum). What was a twizbee? What was micarta? UNLIKE calculus class, thanks to the geeks Eric and Dan, pen knowledge seeped into my brain and pores, and before long I knew I wanted a TWSBI (oh…so THAT’S how it’s spelled) Micarta. Their descriptions of the look, the feel, and even the reportedly odd/strong smell intrigued me.

BUT, the price tag was a little steep. So I waited.

TWSBI Micarta vs. Lamy AL-Star (posted)
TWSBI Micarta vs. Lamy AL-Star (posted)

I entered the FPGeeks contest to win a Micarta, but I didn’t win. And I still didn’t buy.

TWSBI Micarta nib
Extra-fine nib

But I didn’t lose interest. I kept poking around online and reading reviews, and noted that an ever increasing number of those reviews talked about the nib being really dry. Like “it won’t write” dry. More hemming and hawing.

Months passed, and right around the time that I was finally going to go for it, there was news of a new and improved TWSBI Micarta in the works. The reports noted that the nib issue was going to be addressed with the new version. NOW I KNEW I wanted one.

Version 2 of the TWSBI 803 Micarta was released in late May and I pounced on it as soon as it was available. I’m so happy that I waited (and waited and waited). This is one very cool pen.

For one thing, it’s packaged not in a BOX, but in a TWSBI notebook. A bit of brilliance there.

TWSBI Micarta v2 packaging
It’s a pen wrapped in a notebook!

I haven’t written in the notebook yet so that’ll have to be a separate review, but I can attest to the fact that this nib performs perfectly. The EF line is crisp and quite fine (finer than a LAMY EF), with just a hint of feedback, but is in no way dry. I’ve had no issues with hard starts or skipping. Loaded with Iroshizuku tsuki-yo, it’s perfect for everyday writing in my Field Notes notebooks and Moleskine calendar.

New and improved
New and improved

Before I had the pen in hand, I pictured it feeling a little coarse or rough…like something woven…but the Micarta is smooth and warm and very organic feeling. I love the simple lines, the quiet branding, the earthy color. This is a pen that looks and feels like it could’ve been grown and harvested rather than manufactured…it’s that natural looking.

Lovely Micarta
Freshly picked Micarta

TWSBI branding
A bit of quiet branding

Micarta symbols
I cannot translate, but I like it anyway.

This a cartridge/converter pen and requires a word of caution. Because the Micarta material can reportedly stain, it’s best to fill the included converter on its own THEN install it in the pen, rather than dipping the nib and section into the bottle of ink. I’ve used this filling procedure and all is well.

Along with the improved nib, the TWSBI website states that the inner sealing cap is also “all new,” which should prevent nib-drying issues. These improvements, coupled with the notebook packaging, makes me very glad that I waited for version 2. (Though in true TWSBI fashion, folks experiencing issues with their original Micarta can swap their nib for the new one. Customer service is obviously TWSBI’s strong suit.)

There’s a sticker on the notebook’s package that offers this quote:
Cheerful, Constructive, Gentle
Enrich your life by cheer of writing

I’d go one step further…enrich your life by cheer of writing with a TWSBI Micarta.

Micarta end cap
The distinctive Micarta, in a sea of Lamys

A Tale of Two Nibs: Lamy Safari Neon Yellow (2013 LE)

If there ever was a pen that makes you want to wear sunglasses, it’s the Lamy Safari Neon Yellow (2013 LE) fountain pen. Though it doesn’t actually glow in the dark, it certainly looks like it could/should/would. This pen pops with neon goodness, even more than the pictures show.

Neon Lamy + Ray-Bans
A pen made for Ray-Bans

But you’ve undoubtedly already heard about the intense brightness of this pen, I imagine. The tale, this time, is not really about the extreme yellowness, but about the nib(s). One pen, two nibs.

When I inked up my new Lamy with Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue, that tingly buzz of anticipation zipped though me. But when I put the black EF nib to paper, the flow was quite spare. The flow simply did not flow. Well, shoot.

Black EF nib
Optional black EF nib, via Goulet Pens

I scribbled all over different kinds of paper, figuring it’d get going, but nope. If I pressed really hard, I could get some grayish dry lines from the pen, but that type of line is just frustrating. Sooo…I stepped it up a bit, flushed the pen really well, and changed to J. Herbin’s Perle Noire. Nothing but chalky feeling greyish lines. Grrrr.

Bright but disappointing
Oh so bright, but where’s my ink?!

Late that evening, I contacted Goulet Pens and explained my plight. As I DO own a few other Lamys, I COULD swab nibs around, but that wasn’t really an ideal solution. (Swapping in a fine nib that I had in an un-inked Lamy resulted in excellent flow, thus confirming that the issue was definitely with the nib.) The next day, Katy replied, and offered to send me a new nib as well as a pre-paid envelope so that I could return the “problem child.” Perfect!!

That package arrived yesterday, so I postponed dinner (priorities!) and immediately swapped in the nib, then scribbled away.

Nib test
Nib tests

All better. I’m now getting a spot on wettish EF flow from the pen. Happy ending.

But wait, there’s more! Included in my Goulet Pens replacement nib package was the usual (and appreciated!) Tootsie Pop, bookmark, and sticker, as well as three ink samples…Diamine Kelly Green, Private Reserve vampire Red, and Noodler’s Kung Te-Cheng. Bonus inks! Surprise!

Goulet Swag
Replacement nib, ink samples, and Goulet swag

Suddenly, my mood was as bright as my pen.

Neon Lamy vs. highlighter
Fluorescent!

It is, after all, the little things.

Gifting: The Cross Click Gel Pen

Cross Click Gel Pen
Cross Click: Easy to wrap!

It’s a multi-tasking evening here, and one of the things I’m chipping away at is my Christmas wrapping. I’m making good progress, but every now and then I come to a gift that’s hard to wrap (i.e., it’s not a square), and I kick myself for buying irregularly shaped things. The Cross Click Gel Pen boxed set that I recently picked up at Staples (one for me, and a few others for gifts) is a cinch to wrap. Big check in the plus column!

I’ve been eyeing the Click online for awhile, and after reading this review on Gourmet Pens, knew I had to try it out for myself. The pen consistently runs $25 online, but on a trip to Staples, I spied the boxed version for $19.99. Sold! What’s cool is that this set includes three refills, a black one in the pen, and a black and a blue for later use. There’s also a small velvet pouch for storing your Click.

Cross Click
Satin Black body

The only downside is that Staples doesn’t carry the cool teal color that I’ve seen online. I kind of had my heart set on that, but when that choice wasn’t available, I picked the Satin Black version. I’m partial to matte finishes and this is a nice one. Other colors available were white, royal blue, and a darkish pink, all in the matte finish.

The Click
Serious clickage

The clicker (or “knock”) on this pen is SOLID…a joy to click. The mechanism feels sturdy and not at all wishy-washy. The only problem is ME. I’m so used to Cross pens being twist-type pens, that I find myself trying to extend the tip by twisting the body before I remember that there’s a clicker. Old dog, new tricks.

The branding is very tasteful, just the word “Cross,” in white, on the top of the clip. Nice.

This is a narrow pen, and may be too narrow for some. I’ve apparently gotten used to using thicker pens, as I’m still a bit surprised by the thinness when I first pick it up. But I quickly adjust and go on my merry writing way.

0.7 mm Gel Tip
Matte black body and the 0.7 mm gel tip

The gel refill is 0.7 mm so the line is a medium width and is also very dark and solid. Even though it’s a thicker line than what I’ve become accustomed to, I enjoy using the Click. The build quality is apparent and the writing experience is a smooth one.

Writing sample
Smoooooth writing with the Cross Click

So if you need a gift that’s affordable, useful, well-made, and EASY TO WRAP, look no further than the Cross Click Gel Pen gift set at Staples. With a deal this good, who needs Santa?

——

I’m not affiliated with Staples or Cross Pens, just a happy customer.

Who am I kidding…I still need Santa.

A Departure

This week’s entry may be a little late because I spent last evening (my “rough draft” night) doing this:


Pre-flight


Bird’s eye view of the baseball diamond


There we are!


From the basket


Looking up

It was an evening without pens, but a wonderful evening nonetheless.

A balloonist’s wishes are simple:
Gentle winds
Soft landings
Friendly landowners

I wish the same to you.

You, too, can have The Perfect Pen Case.


The Pen Case…from concept to reality [Photo from the project's Kickstarter page]

Obviously, I own my share of pens, and I’m always giving the new pen projects on Kickstarter the once over. Some I’ve backed, and some I haven’t. The Render K has become a daily carry pen, and I’m waiting for a few more projects to wrap up production and ship. Kickstarter is a super cool way for folks to promote their products/projects, and for those interested to get in on the ground floor and provide the funding to “kickstart” the project.

Given the number of pens I own, I’m particularly excited to back Alicia Klein’s project- The Pen Case. I’m always looking for ways to carry my pens, and Alicia’s product is both unique in design and looks, while still being practical. What I really like, in addition to this being an excellent way to carry my pens, is that I can set the case on my desk and use it to corral the pen clutter that invariably happens as my work day wears on. My pens will be organized AND protected, at home, at work, and on the go.


End the desktop clutter [Photo from the project's Kickstarter page]

But there’s a catch…Alicia’s Kickstarter project has 10 more days to go and needs a little over $1000 in pledges to reach its funding goal. She’s in the homestretch. Let’s make The Perfect Pen Case a reality, ‘k?

I really want one. Don’t you?

All is well

After a crazy travel day, where my luggage went on ahead of me, what a great sight to see my LL Bean duffle waiting for me when I arrived in Albuquerque. I have clothes! And pens!

Let the conference begin!

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