Great Expectations: Visconti Opera Elements/Air

Visconti Opera Elements (Air)

One day, a few months ago, THIS pen popped up on sale in an email from Fahrney’s Pens. I’ve admired the looks and reported performance of Visconti pens vicariously for quite some time, but figured it’d be a long time (if ever) before I acquired one. They do tend to be pricey. The sale on this pen, though, brought it into the range of the possible. But was the price really a good one? Was the pen a good one FOR the price? Hmmmm. What to do, what to do?!

Visconti Opera Elements

I quickly turned to someone who could help me sort out this pen dilemma— my friend and penpal, Tracy— known in pen circles as the Visconti Queen. Tracy and I met for the first time at the 2013 DC Pen Show and the Viscontis in her pen case are drop-dead gorgeous. She’s a great ambassdor for the brand as she clearly knows her way around the Visconti block and is building a truly impressive collection. If anyone could help me, it’d be Tracy.

And she did. We chatted via Facebook where she asked me about the particulars— the model, the nib, the price. After our chat she rendered her verdict— “Get it!” And so I did.

I COULD NOT WAIT for it to arrive.

There’s always that underlying anxiety when I buy a pen online— will it live up to my expectations? Given the brand and the list price, my expectations were pretty high. Scratch that— they were REALLY high.

For the reduced price, I gave up some choice. Only the Air (Yellow) model was available, and only in a medium nib. Why Visconti calls this “yellow” is beyond me.  It’s clearly brown. (And why is “air” yellow or brown??) One reviewer called the resin “root beer” and that’s a perfect description. Root beer with white stripes. A root beer float! Yum. (Sorry. Hungry.)

Visconti Opera Elements

I think the resin is gorgeous— flecked and rich and just a LITTLE bit translucent, especially in the cap. So the lack of a model/color choice was not a problem.

Visconti Opera Elements (Bayonet cap)

This Opera Elements pen comes with a “bayonet style” cap, which is neither screw-on nor a snap cap. Basically, you push the cap on, then twist a quarter turn so that the grooves in the cap engage with the grooves in the body. This style cap assures that the facets on the pen and the cap are always aligned. It makes capping and uncapping the pen quick and easy. The cap can be posted, but I never do so because I’m afraid of scratching the metal trim, and because it makes the pen a little long for my taste.

Visconti clip

You can’t miss the iconic Visconti clip. It’s arched and springy and bears the brand’s name on both sides. I only clip this pen into my pen case, never into a pocket, so I can’t really attest to the functionality of the clip. It works fine for my application.

After I admired the pen, and even the packaging (a leather-lined box with a built in drawer for holding the Visconti booklet), it was time to ink it up! I chose Pilot’s Iroshizuku tsukushi (horsetail) because the color is a dead-ringer for the Visconti Opera Element’s resin, and filled the converter. Then I got out a piece of Tomoe River paper and put the 23 kt PD950 palladium nib to work. Drumroll, please….

Dreamtouch nib

WELL, HELLO! They don’t call this a Dreamtouch nib for nothing. The springiness of the nib surprised me as it felt unlike any other nib in my collection. With just a light touch, the nib laid down a wonderfully wet line. I was worried that the medium nib might be a little too wide for my tastes, but it’s not. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve been branching out into medium, broad, and stub nibs. The Dreamtouch nib— well, the whole pen, really— feels (and looks) elegant and makes me feel like I should be signing important documents with flourish. But of course, I’m not. I’m writing letters and doodling and recording the day’s joys and frustrations in my journal. Even my mundane scribblings feel elevated with this pen.

Visconti Opera Elements

The pen arrived with a small slip of paper tucked under the pen’s clip which read, “Don’t press! This nib will follow your dreams.” I might edit that to, “Don’t press! This is the nib of your dreams.”

Visconti Opera Elements

The Visconti Opera Elements is now solidly at the top of my “best-writers” list, just above my Lamy 2000 and Delta Fusion 82. The nib, she is impressive.

I think Tracy may be onto something.

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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.

So I picked up a broad……..nib.

Never say never. Though I thought I would forever be an extra-fine/fine woman (we’re talking nibs here), watching all of those SBREBrown pen review videos (that man loves him some B, BB, and even BBB nibs), and receiving letters from friends who swear by juicy, fat nibs, I cracked. I had to explore.

VP Raden with broad nib

Goulet Pens recently ran a “Spring Cleaning” 20% off promotion on a number of items, including the Pilot Vanishing Point nib units. What a perfect time to branch out a bit. When the broad VP nib unit arrived, I popped it into my beloved and sparkly Raden VP (thanks, Dan!), loaded it from a sample vial of Noodler’s Turquoise (thanks, Joe!), pulled out some Tomoe River paper and let it fly.

Hoo boy. VERY nice.

I kind of get it now. Maybe I MORE THAN get it now.

VP Raden with broad nib

While I won’t be using broad nibs for my everyday writing— my handwriting is just too small for that— I can totally see myself transitioning to them for letter writing, when I can use my Tomoe River or Clairfontaine Triomphe paper, and when I really like seeing how an ink shades.

Granted, the Vanishing Point broad is, since it’s Japanese, more like a European medium, but still. I’d stepped away from my comfort zone and had to admit that it felt…well…comfortable. Wonderfully smooth. Nicely juicy.

(This keeps sounding dirty and I DO NOT MEAN FOR THAT TO BE HAPPENING.)

Raden VP with broad nib

Getting back to my point (and my G-rating), all I’m trying to say is that it’s cool to take a pen body that you love, and swap in some different nibs for a completely different writing experience. The VPs are great for this, as are, of course, Lamys and TWSBIs. I see that Richard Binder offers Vanishing Point pen bodies (even the new metallics) separately, so I may go that route when I decide to spring for the cool looking green metallic. That’ll save me about $60. Since I own a range of nib units to swap in, why buy another complete pen?

VP nib unit and Lamy nib

When I ordered the broad VP nib unit, I also picked up a Lamy broad nib as these are crazy easy to swap in and out of several Lamy pen models. And when I recently purchased my Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom with a medium nib, I tossed a fine and a 1.1 mm stub into my shopping cart, as well. One gorgeous looking pen, three different writing options.

So have fun. Experiment. With nibs, I mean.