Mosaic: The Levenger True Writer Kyoto Fountain Pen (F nib)

I’ve been a fan of Levenger’s goods for a LONG time, and am a happy user of their Circa notebooks and address books. I thumb through their catalogs repeatedly, making mental wish-lists, and flagging pages with sticky notes (much like I did as a kid with the Sears catalog of toys). I’ve been hearing good things about their True Writer fountain pens on FPGeeks, so when a recent promotion popped up, I made my move and purchased the True Writer Kyoto Fountain Pen.

Kyoto True Writer by Levenger

Man, oh, man…what colors! I’m particularly drawn to shiny colorful pens, like the Edison Collier Persimmon Swirl and Ken Cavers’ Tiger Stripey pen, and now, the True Writer Kyoto. Its acrylic body is, as Levenger puts it, “a marbled mosaic of turquoise, lavender, espresso, and caramel.” To be honest, I didn’t even notice the lavender until I shot a few pictures for this entry. And that’s the real fun of this pen…there are so many colors and shades and layers, that the look of the pen changes constantly. In low light, it looks quite subtle, while in brighter light, the colors and sheen POP.

A mosaic of colors

I chose a fine nib, as I almost always do, and this one writes smoothly and consistently, and has done so from the moment I filled the converter with Montblanc’s Toffee Brown. This is my go-to brown ink, and it pairs perfectly with the pen, as it also reveals a range of brown shades when the ink hits the paper.

The Kyoto’s fine steel nib

The pen measures 5-1/2″ in length and 5/8″ in diameter and weighs 0.77 ounces. The body is accented with a chrome clip and chrome bands that I think compliment the look of the pen. Your eye sees the amazing colors first, then is drawn to the subtle accents. It’s a well-balanced look, in my opinion.

Chrome accents

The screw-style cap posts nicely and I find it equally comfortable to write with the cap posted or unposted. The body is big enough to hide a spare ink cartridge, if you’re using cartridges rather than the included converter.

Did I mention that the colors are really cool?

Well, they are.

They certainly are.


A tip: Levenger is currently offering a $100 gift card for orders of $125 or more. (Check their website for details.) Might be the time to do a little shopping!

A note: Though it sounds like I’m doing a Levenger commercial, I haven’t been compensated by them in any way. I just love their paper products, and now, their pens.

Intrigued: The Contribute Project via Kickstarter

Grey Contribute Pen & Hardwood Box

Earlier this week, Dustin Faddis sent me a heads up on his current Kickstarter project. A pen made out of concrete. CONCRETE. At first I was confused, because when I think of concrete I think “sidewalk” and “oh so heavy” and a few other things that have nothing in common with a pen. But as I watched Dustin’s Kickstarter video, I became intrigued (but was still a little confused). Because my brain is stuck on that heavy-as-lead type of concrete, my inner three-year old came roaring out and a bunch of questions popped into my head. So I emailed my questions to Dustin, who did a great job of clearing up my confusion.

Grey Contribute Pen with magnetic cap and back

I asked, first, about the weight. I mean, mobsters are forever talking about putting someone in “concrete overshoes” so wouldn’t a pen made out of concrete weigh a ton? The answer is no. Dustin has engineered this concrete to be both light AND extremely strong. The pen, with refill, weighs 1.6 ounces. By comparison, a Retro 51 Tornado weighs around 1.1 ounces while the PHX-Pen weighs 2.1 ounces, so the Contribute Pen falls squarely between the two. Lightweight concrete. Who knew? (Oh, yeah…Dustin knew.)

I also asked Dustin if he could describe what the pen FEELS like to hold. How is it to grip? Is it cold or warm to the touch? How’s the balance? (Am I annoying?) Dustin offered this response, “The pen is very comfortable to hold. There’s a soft and smooth feel to it, yet it nicely grips your hand–not slippery, although the finish is polished and smooth.” He also says that the pen material adapts to ambient room temperature and conducts some body heat.

As for balance, Dustin describes the pen as resting nicely in hand, with maybe a slight weight to the back, but nothing pronounced. He is currently experimenting with different spring plungers (stainless steel vs. aluminum vs. brass) to see if this shifts the balance at all, but offers that the pen maintains a light touch on paper, and offers the right amount of heft and balance.

Contribute Pen & Hardwood Box

The Contribute Pen takes a variety of refills, including my favorites…the Pilot Hi-Tec-C and Uni-ball Signo DX. I asked him about the “snugness” of the various refills, because there’s nothing worse than an ill-fitting refill. Dustin confirms that they are, indeed, snug, and are held firmly in place by the spring plunger. The pen’s cap, tip, and back are magnetized with Neodymium magnets, which adds another layer of coolness to this pen.

My last question had to do with the project’s name…The Contribute Project. What’s the significance? Well, due to Kickstarter project guidelines, Dustin has to be somewhat vague about what this means. So let’s just say that there IS meaning behind the name, and that I’m sure you’d endorse his vision.

He also said, quite graciously, that I WASN’T annoying. Which is cool, because that shows that Dustin is as much a stickler for detail as I am. Maybe more. At least when it comes to engineered concrete.

In addition to the pen, The Contribute Project also includes Hardwood Boxes (for holding the pens) and assorted Buttons (use your imagination!), details of which can be found on the project’s Kickstarter page.

Buttons from The Contribute Project

The Contribute Pen & Buttons

Pledge levels on Kickstarter range from $5 to $150. Pen rewards start at the $55 level. There are only 15 days left to fund this project, as pledging closes on Monday December 10th. So if, like me, you’re a fan of unique pens, head over to Dustin’s Kickstarter page and check out the video, more photos, and more details.

Concrete? Yes, concrete.


Notes: All photos courtesy of Dustin Faddis. I am a backer of this Kickstarter project.

Pusher: The Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pen (0.4 mm, black ink)

Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Grip model, 0.4 mm

Thanks to THE Pen Addict (Brad Dowdy), I’ve grown to love the sharp, sharp tip of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. I recall using a fine-point Bic in junior high and hating it, so I steered clear of fine-tipped pen for decades because of that bad experience. Brad’s love of the Hi-Tec-C encouraged me to try one for myself, and wow, this is no Bic.

0.4 mm NEEDLE

I love this pen so much, either as is, or as a refill housed in another body (ala Karas Kustoms Render-K), that I regularly stock up on pens and refills at JetPens. I’ve started giving some to pen-worthy friends, especially those who I think might appreciate the super precise line of the 0.4 mm needle tip. Without fail, my friends become instant Hi-Tec-C fans. I’m now, it seems, a Pilot Hi-Tec-C pusher.

0.4 mm cap

The 0.4 mm tip is the sweet spot for me…super crisp and sharp, without being draggy or scratchy. Okay, there probably IS a hint of scratch (it is a needle, after all) but it’s a scratch I enjoy.

Grip upgrade

I prefer the “grip” model over the ultra-basic version because it gives me a little bit of rubber to…well…grip. Both versions are no nonsense and cost the same ($3.30 at JetPens) so give me the free “upgrade.”

The Pilot Hi-Tec-C. Simple, but very nice. And very addictive.


But wait…there’s BONUS material…

A good read

Wishing all of my US readers a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to relaxing a bit (once the whole “cooking dinner” thing is behind me!) and curling up with a good book. A good PEN book. In a recent video, Stephen Brown mentioned that one of his favorite fountain pens books is called Fountain Pens (makes sense) by Peter Twydle. I picked up a copy via Amazon, and though I haven’t spent much time with it yet, I’m getting a kick out of the “old time” ads. There’s a lot of history, terminology, and collecting tips packed into this 160-page volume.

Onoto the Pen

Yup…I’m thinking that a comfy chair, a cup of tea, and Fountain Pens sounds better than any “door-buster” Black Friday deal.

I didn’t feel like busting a door, anyway.

Fall: The Monteverde Prima (Brown Swirl) & Field Notes Traveling Salesman Limited Edition

Whoooeee…that’s a mouthful. But off we go…

Monteverde Prima, Brown Swirl, F nib

In order to get my day off to a peaceful/calm start, I’ve recently started an early morning ritual. Right after breakfast, I pick up one of our Silky Terriers (usually 10-year old Boo) and together we take look out into the woods behind our house. Sometimes we see birds and bunnies, maybe even a deer. But what struck me this morning were the colors. And how much those November colors remind me of the colors in the Monteverde Prima. (This sounds contrived…I know it does…but I honestly DO think like this.)

Here we are in late fall. The leaves are mostly gone, but there are still glimpses of gold and a little green and a lot of brown, in all kinds of muted shades and tones. With the sun low in the sky, the woods shimmered with the early light. Exactly like the Monteverde Prima.

Swirly goodness

With its chocolatey browns and shimmery golds, the Brown Swirl Prima is a perfect companion to the Fall Field Notes Limited Edition offering…the Traveling Salesman notebooks.

Made for each other

I’m a BIG list maker. Big. Really big. And my action/waiting/maybe lists for work and home used to be physically big…like 8.5″ x 11″ big. And at that size they freaked me out a bit. Everything just looked so LARGE and overwhelming. Around the time that I noticed a direct correlation between the size of my working lists and my level of anxiety, I fortuitously subscribed to the Field Notes Color series. Then I moved my lists from big sheets of paper into Field Notes notebooks. And I calmed down. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Fountain pen friendly ledger paper

Since subscribing, I maintain master lists in Evernote (so they’re synced and always with me), but my daily working lists are religiously hand-written in Field Notes notebooks…one for home and one for work. The Traveling Salesman Limited Edition notebooks are this year’s fall offering, and they’re perfect for the season. The cover is a rich “Hot Fudge” brown with “Fool’s Gold” metallic embossing, while the ledger style pages are a soft green…all colors that I see in both my woods and this pen.

Like the fall forest

The nib is fine and smooth…a little finer than some of the other fine nibbed pens that I own. It’s a touch on the drier side, but that may be the ink. Once this cartridge is gone, I’ll pop in the converter (which threads into the pen…nice!), and load it with a Montblanc black or brown. The Prima hasn’t given me a speck of trouble…no hard starts and no skipping. I’m once again impressed by Monteverde.

Well-behaved nib

I see autumn and my woods in this pen and this notebook. And when I’m in the thick of a crazy work day, that’s exactly what I need.


For more details on the Monteverde Prima line, check out Brian Goulet’s excellent video review at Ink Nouveau.

Novelty: The Retro 51 Tornado ZAG Limited Edition

Back in the 90’s, my cousin and I took a road trip to Maine. As we were backing out of the driveway, my aunt waved and shouted, “No novelties!” (?????) I guess she was thinking of us as little kids, when we were prone to blowing our allowances on Super Balls, Silly Putty, and good luck trolls. So throughout our drive up the coast, whenever we stopped at a gift shop, we’d hold up touristy lobster-covered objects and ask each other, “Is THIS a novelty?” The joke just didn’t get old.

Though the days of trolls (I had quite the collection) and enormous pencils and crazily twisted drinking straws are behind me, I AM still drawn to the occasional novelty. Enter the Retro 51 Tornado ZAG Limited Edition rollerball.

Better than Silly Putty

I’ve written about the Retro 51 Tornado before, but the ZAG has a surprise twist that made it irresistible to this pen collector. Like all Retro 51 pens, the packaging is both unique and fun.

Doesn’t that bike remind you of your childhood?

Words to live by

The box is clever, but the packaging doesn’t end there. The pen is tucked inside a very cool metal tube (that sort of pops when you pull the top off). How novel!

The whole shebang

But that’s not the REAL novelty. Nope.

The build quality is superb, and I especially love the knurling at the end of the pen.

Twist this to extend and retract the rollerball

But that’s still not the novelty.

So what is it?!



A very novel pen novelty

With its cool packaging, smooth rollerball performance, obvious build quality, AND its glow-in-the-dark trick, I could not resist the Retro 51 Tornado ZAG Limited Edition pen.

Just don’t tell Aunt Dot.

You can find the ZAG at:
Daly’s Pen Shop

The OTHER Mini: The TWSBI Diamond Mini

A writing sample and a little TWSBI background

All together now…TWSBI!! (TWIZ-BEE!!) I seriously cannot stop saying this! (Try it. It’s addictive.)


While the tech world is abuzz with news of the iPad Mini, pen folk FINALLY got their hands on a different mini…the TWSBI Diamond Mini. Before becoming a regular listener of the FPGeeks podcast, I’d never heard of TWSBI. But Eric and Dan mentioned the company so often that I started stalking TWSBI pens online and read a ton of reviews…but only recently picked up a TWSBI Diamond 540 (Amber). Awhile back, talk of the mythical TWSBI Mini ramped up, but the release date remained elusive. I was so impressed by the 540, that ordering a Mini was a no-brainer. But when would it hit the market?? TWSBI apparently spends a lot of time refining their designs to incorporate the suggestions of their fans, so release dates are not exactly carved in stone.

But last week, the Mini launched, and as soon as I got wind of it, I ordered directly from TWSBI (from bed, on my iPad). A couple of days later, my Mini arrived, and I am loving it.

I picked the demonstrator model (all clear) because I like seeing the ink (Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue) sloshing around inside. The piston-filling system is a breeze to use and just sort of fun, in an inky kind of way.

See the ink?

I’d read a few reviews that noted dry writing with some TWSBIs (mainly the Micartas) so I was a little leery, as I have zero knowledge of how to adjust a dry pen. But I needn’t have worried as both the Diamond 540 and Mini wrote wonderfully out of the box. I’m very happy with the EF nib and the wetness of the line.

This extra-fine nib makes me smile

To post the cap, simply thread it onto the back of the pen body. Voila…perfect size for comfortable writing.

Posted cap

But how mini is it? Here’s a comparison of the Mini vs a couple of Kaweco pocket models (the AL-Sport and the TEENY Liliput)…

Top to bottom: TWSBI Mini, Kaweco AL-Sport, Kaweco Liliput

So while the TSWBI Mini isn’t super small (honors for that go to the Liliput), it’s nicely compact and easy to carry. The TWSBI Mini also feels less “loseable” than the Liliput, which is just a wisp of a pen (but cool, in it’s own way).

Pen aesthetics and performance aside, what REALLY drew me into the brand was the company philosophy, which is spelled out on the pen’s package insert. TWSBI strives to provide quality at a “favorable retail price,” but also stresses the value of enjoying life. In their words…

We hope that it can teach its users, however young or old, to understand the value of enjoying life. We at TWSBI approach each project with the end user in mind. In this particular case, we had the following goals:
-For the pen to be functional, as well as aesthetically pleasing
-For the pen to help the user express him- or herself
-For the pen to bring people together
-For the pen to be affordable
-For the pen to teach the user how to enjoy a slower-paced lifestyle.

For someone who has a hard time getting off the hamster-wheel of life and quieting down, TWSBI’s goals were just what I wanted/needed to hear. And I think that using the TWSBI Mini, or any fountain pen, really DOES help to slow things down. There is a bit of ritual with a fountain pen…selecting the ink, filling the pen, choosing the paper, seeing the ink flow, cleaning the pen…all are steps that force us to ratchet down from the crazy pace of our days. As we write, we breathe and relax. Just a little bit. Just a little bit.

TWSBI also encourages users to periodically perform preventative maintenance on their pens by providing detailed diagrams as well as the necessary wrench and silicone grease for complete disassembly. Am I THAT brave? Not yet, but maybe one day. It DOES look quite simple.

Here’s how you do it

And here’s what you use…

Cleverly hidden in the bottom of the pen’s packaging

TWSBI’s tagline is “Inspired by Writing” and I can honestly say that the Mini (as well as the Diamond 540) DO inspire me to write. AND to slow down.

TWSBI, you’re the prescription I’ve been looking for.

Exhale. I feel better already.

Giveaway Winner: TUL Pens

Lucky commenter 26 was the winner of the TUL pens:

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 26
Result: 26

marisquared said:
October 31, 2012 at 7:29 pm I’d love to try the pens.

And so you SHALL try the pens, marisquared! I’ll be in touch via email for your mailing address. Should I not hear back within one week, a new winner will be selected.

Thanks for reading and commenting!