Don’t Worry, Be Happy: The Pilot Kaküno

Thank you to my friends at JetPens for sponsoring this post. Because of their sponsorship, the Pilot Kaküno reviewed here was free to me.  This review reflects my experiences and observations with the pen.

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Pilot Kaküno

I’ll be honest— though the metal-bodied Pilot Metropolitan is undoubtedly a better value than the Pilot Kaküno, the whimsical appeal of the Kaküno is hard to ignore. Despite having an all plastic body and cap, and a slightly higher price tag than the Metropolitan, I can’t resist the charm of the Kaküno. Touted as the perfect pen for children and adult beginners, its superb nib makes the Kaküno worthy of a look by even experienced fountain pen users.

Kaküno with Rhodia dotPad No. 16

Each pen comes with a gray body, but the red, blue, green, orange, pink, or gray cap choices make this a fun-looking pen despite the subdued color of the body. (Unless you choose gray. But why would you?) I chose the orange version— though the green one tugged at me, too— because I almost always choose orange if it’s an option. AND it matches my new Rhodia dotPad. Which, of course, is critical.

Uncapped Kaküno

Pilot uses sturdy plastic for the body, and a hexagonal shape that keeps this clipless pen from rolling off of a desk. The snap cap is quick and easy to remove and replace, and posts solidly.  The triangular(ish), semi-transparent section is less severely molded than that on the Lamy Safari, but should help newbies settle into a proper and comfortable grip. The pen is LIGHT- just 13 grams (9g body, 4g cap)— which is why it’s such an appealing pen for children. If you require heft in your pens, move along. But if you like a bit of fun AND and an awesome nib, keep reading.

OH, NO face!

When I look at the end of the Kaküno’s cap, I see a little face. It reminds me of that kid’s expression in “Home Alone” when he finds out that he is, in fact, home alone. “OH NO!” I’m not sure if this is an intentional feature, but I think it’s kind of cute.

Smiley face

The most light-hearted feature is the smiley face on the pen’s steel nib. It’s hard to stay mired in a sour mood with a happy face looking up at you as you tackle your work. The smile performs an important function while also providing a little levity. It signals the correct orientation of the nib to kids—or even to uninitiated adults—who might not be quite sure how to correctly hold a fountain pen. If you see a grin, you’re doing it right!

Even the word Kaküno, which means “to write” in Japanese, contains a tiny smile! KAKÜNO. See the eyes over the grin the “u” makes? Cute.

Underside of nib

Where this pen stops kidding around is in the nib’s performance. My happy little nib is a fine—medium nibs are also available—and the line is super-precise, clean, and crisp. It is AWESOME. Even with such a fine nib (more like a western extra-fine, or finer), the flow is generous and the line consistent and smooth. It honestly knocked my socks off. (It’s true. I’m writing this in bare feet.)

Kaküno with Pilot/Namiki cartridges

I choose to keep things simple— as a beginner might— and installed a Blue/Black Pilot-Namiki cartridge that I happened to have in my ink stash. The Kaküno can be outfitted with a CON-20 or CON-50 converter, but I’m probably going to stick with the cartridges for now. One black cartridge is included with the pen but a converter is not, which is another reason why the Metropolitan wins the empirical “best value” contest.

Pilot Kaküno

I’ll be attending a conference in July and am already planning to take my Kaküno to Indy with me. I hate taking dear or pricey pens when I travel in case they get waylaid in the airport shuffle or I just stupidly leave them behind (unlikely, but possible). For that reason, my Lamy Safaris, Pilot Metropolitans, and now, this Pilot Kaküno—all with lightweight price tags— are the perfect candidates for travel.

Pilot Kaküno

The Kaküno is a low-stress, high amusement pen that makes writing fun and easy for kids, adult novices, and even veteran users. The nib’s happy face makes me smile, but it’s the nib’s performance that REALLY lights up my face.

It’s pure joy.  Ü

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The Pilot Kaküno is available from JetPens for $16.50. The CON-20 and CON-50 converters are also available, along with Pilot/Namiki cartridges. There are no affiliate links in this post. Thanks, again, to Elaine at JetPens for making this post possible.

For the official Pen Addict’s take on the same pen, check out Brad Dowdy’s review HERE.

Bob, of My Pen Needs Ink, reviews the Kaküno HERE.

The “Anti-Stealth” Edison Nouveau Premiere 2014 Spring Edition (Cherry Blossom)

A couple of weeks ago, I was blabbing about my love for all things stealth, like pens with black matte bodies and all-black nibs. I DO love those. I really do.

Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom

But then I saw THIS pen on the Goulet Pens site and it’s obviously as “anti-stealth” as a pen can get. It’s pink and swirly and alive with depth and sheen. And it spoke to me. LOUDLY. Quite frankly, it would not shut up.

Pink & swirly!

Let’s set the groundwork— I’m not a pink person (she says, as she sits here wearing a pink shirt). Well, I did request a pink room when I was eight, but I chalk that up to falling for the “girl’s room = pink” stereotype of my youth. I’m much more drawn to earthy colors, and taupe. Lots of taupe. So me wanting this pink pen sort of came out of left field.

Sheen and depth and swirls!

It’s like how I LOVE the movie “The September Issue” despite being one of the least fashionable, comfort-trumps-all people I know. That movie, about the making of the September issue of Vogue magazine, is packed with moments of beauty, creative genius, and hard work. This pen, it seems to me, is packed with those as well.

Stabby ends

The Edison Nouveau Premiere model features a pointed body and cap, which makes it look a little “stabby.” That slightly tactical look, coupled with the luscious pink swirls, makes the pen that much more appealing to me. It’s like it’s tough and soft at the same time, which is a cool mix.

Translucent cap

One of my favorite things about the look of this pen is the translucency— how you can catch a glimpse of the nib and converter inside the pen. Coupled with the sheen and the swirls, this is, to me, the perfect look— full of interest and surprises.

Uncapped Cherry Blossom

The pen is a light one— 17g overall (10g body, 7g cap). This coupled with the nicely tapered grip makes it a great candidate for long writing sessions. The cap doesn’t post, but the uncapped body measures 5-1/8″ making it perfectly usable for just about everybody.

Edison nib

I ordered the pen with a medium steel nib, and after a bit of debate, filled the included converter with my beloved Levenger Shiraz ink. This is a “we were meant to be together” pairing, and writing letters and notes with this pen/ink is a true pleasure. The nib writes wonderfully. It’s juicy, with just a touch of feedback. No hard starts, no skipping. The ink always flows even if I’ve left the pen sitting for a couple of days.

Cherry Blossom

What’s really nice is that the #6 nibs are easily swappable. Just screw out one nib unit and screw in another. Because of this, I ordered a couple of spare nibs with my pen— a fine as well as a 1.1mm stub. It’s like having three pens in one for just a little more money.

Edison branding

As noted on the Goulet Pens website, “Edison Nouveau is a joint collaboration between Brian Gray of the Edison Pen Company, and Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company. This is an exclusive line of Edison fountain pens available only through the Goulet Pen Company.” Branding is super subtle, and notes that this is the 2014 Spring Edition of the Edison Nouveau Premiere, meaning this version will only be available until mid/late June. It’s not a limited edition pen (i.e., there aren’t a limited number available), rather it’s available during a limited timeframe. I’m already anxious to see the 2014 Summer and Fall versions.

Oh, those swirls!

But for now, I love my pink Edison Nouveau Premiere, despite my professed love of black stealthy pens. (It’s our inconsistencies that make us interesting, right?) This pen positively POPS and sparkles and shines. It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s fresh and swirly.

Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom

It is the Cherry Blossom.

Business Class: Pilot FriXion Biz Erasable Gel Pen

This Pilot FriXion Ball Knock Biz Gel Pen was provided by JetPens for review purposes. I was not compensated in any way other than being able to keep the pen. This review reflects my experience with the FriXion Biz.
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Pilot FriXion pens
A FriXion sampler

I’ve been purchasing Pilot FriXion erasable gel pens since the their introduction in 2008. The first model I purchased had ink that was a bit washed out and a barrel design that looked an awful lot like Mike Tyson’s face tattoo. It’s fair to say that I wasn’t exactly blown away by that pen. But despite this iffy first impression, I’ve stuck with the line, and have sampled many iterations of FriXion pens. It’s a product that keeps me coming back for more.

Pilot FriXion Biz

Over the years, the barrels have become more refined and the ink a bit richer in color. I always have a few FriXion pens stashed around my home and office. It’s one product that I’ve consistently used for the last six years, so Pilot must be doing something right.

Refill comparison: 0.5 mm vs. 0.7 mm
Refill comparison: 0.5 mm vs. 0.7 mm

When this Pilot Frixion Biz Gel Pen arrived from JetPens, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I was perfectly happy with my plastic barrel FriXion pens, but this newest version IS really good looking. The pen, as received, was loaded with a 0.5 mm black refill and I have to say that the line wasn’t as dark as I like, and even seemed a bit lighter other 0.5 mm FriXion refills I’ve used. To remedy this, I went to my treasure chest of refills and popped in a 0.7 mm black refill. What a difference. Since that swap, I’m having a hard time putting this pen down.

The 0.7 mm refill lays down a visibly wet (yet quick drying) line that’s a solid black— much better than that wimpy 2008 ink. The writing experience is super smooth. I’d even go so far as to call it “fun.”

Disassembled Pilt FriXion Biz

The metallic pen body is a gorgeous blue, and has a well-balanced heft. Weighing about 24 g (vs. 11.5 g for the plastic retractable model), the pen feels substantial— a definite upgrade from that lightweight “tattoed” first pen. I’ve been throwing the Biz in my purse for the past few weeks, and have it out on my desk all day, but the body has yet to show a nick or a scratch. It looks brand new despite the fact that I’ve been using the heck out of it AND haven’t babied it at all.

FriXion clip

To deploy the writing tip, just slide the clip down until it clicks into place. Repeat the action to retract the tip. The mechanism works without a hitch.

FriXion spring

When you unscrew the “nosecone” to replace the refill, the little spring STAYS PUT instead of popping out and falling on the floor causing that familiar “did my dog eat a spring?!?!” panic. My dogs and I appreciate that little detail.

Hidden eraser

The “eraser” on the Biz model is hidden under a small screw-on cap that gives the pen its clean look, but also means that you have to unscrew this cap to erase your mistakes, rather than quickly using an already exposed eraser.

Uncapped eraser

In my previous review of the FriXion retractable plastic body pens, I went into considerable detail about how the eraser works. You can review that post HERE. In that review I also note that you’ll want to let the ink dry completely before attempting to erase to avoid smudging. The good news is that the ink dries very fast, so this isn’t much of an issue. Erasures with any FriXion pen are quite clean— a huge leap forward from those awful Papermate “erasable” pens that rubbed away the paper rather than the ink. I use FriXion pens all the time in my planner and daily work and home logs because things are always changing and occasionally I make a mistake (ahem). It’s so satisfying to easily erase ink.

Erasing FriXion ink

That said, because the ink is temperature sensitive [see my "hot car" experiment at the end of that old post]— meaning that it will disappear in hot conditions— this is not a pen to use for official or critical documents. So feel free to use this Biz pen throughout your business day, but be mindful of where you’re using it. Like, don’t sign an important contract or a birth certificate.

You may be wondering, do I want to pay a premium price for the FriXion Biz when I can get a plastic retractable FriXion for $2.50? Well, I look at it this way. You can fly coach or you can fly business class. Both get you to your destination, but for the additonal money you get an upgraded experience. The Biz gives you that FriXion upgrade with its cool metallic colors, matte finish, concealed eraser, and nice heft.

Pilot FriXion Biz

Some days, it’s nice to travel in style.

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The Pilot FriXion Biz is available at JetPens for $33.00, where you get FREE shipping on all orders over $25.00. Thank you to my friends at JetPens for providing this pen for review.

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!