Like Nature: Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green Ink

Many thanks to the fine folks at Pen Boutique for providing this bottle of Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink for review. There are no affiliate links in this post and I was not, nor will I be, monetarily compensated. This review reflects my experience with, and observations of, the ink.

Montblanc Daniel Defoe ink

We tend to think of the grass as merely green. Same goes for the trees. During my walk yesterday I noticed just how many different shades of green there are in the fields and lawns and trees along my route. Pale fresh greens, darker mature greens, and just about every shade in between. Yellow greens in the grasses. Bluish greens in the pines. Too many greens to name or count. To call the trees and weeds and lawns and fields merely green would be selling nature short.

Green ink comparison

The same goes for Montblanc’s Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink. To call it simply green would be a mistake as this is an ink full of shading and surprises. To be honest, I’ve been fiddling with this review for a bit, and I finally figured out why. Reviewing ink is a tricky thing as accurately portraying an ink’s color is affected by so many variables— outdoor light and indoor lighting, nib size, particular pen characteristics with regard to flow, paper choice, camera settings and performance, computer display parameters, etc. I worried about “getting it right.” I think it’s been particularly tricky with this ink because it keeps looking different to me, which, of course, is something to celebrate, not fret about.

Writing samples

I wrote my first draft with my Visconti Opera Elements (medium nib), and really loved the way the natural looking green shades from a grassy light green to a deeper earthy olive shade. The ink is easy on the eyes— soothing but not boring. This is an organic green— very natural, very fresh.

Visconti Opera Elements on Tomoe River paper
On Tomoe River Paper using a Visconti Opera Elements with a medium nib

Wanting to test out the ink in a different pen with a different nib, I loaded up a Lamy AL-Star with a 1.1 mm stub and wrote another draft on a Rhodia dotPad.

writing sample with Lamy AL-Star 1.1 mm stub nib
On Rhodia dotPad using a Lamy AL-Star with 1.1 mm stub nib

Though it’s a perfectly nice looking green in a fine nibbed pen, the plucked-from-nature shading truly reveals itself in pens with broader nibs.

Dry time test
Dry time testing on Rhodia dotPad

The ink seems to have a little bit of a longer dry time than other inks I’ve used recently, so I ran a quick test, and my results seemed to bear out that impression. Again, dry time can be affected by so many things— paper, ink flow, humidity, etc.— so don’t take my results as gospel.

Ink swatch and writing sample

Montblanc’s Daniel Defoe Palm Green is aptly named as it calls to mind a tropical island with lush verdant foliage. The shading in this ink is equally lush and celebrates the range of greens seen on mountain trails, in seagrasses, on tropical palms, and in meadows. It’s complex and full of surprises— just like nature.

Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green Ink


Pen Boutique is selling the Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink for $19. Not a bad price for a mini-tropical vacation!

For another take on the same ink, check out Ana’s review HERE.

Mildred’s Pen: Sheaffer Lady Balance (Marine Green Striated)

Sheafffer Lady Balance

This Sheaffer Balance is another vintage pen that I picked up from Dan Smith, my go-to vintage pen supplier of late. As I’ve said, I’m a total novice when it comes to vintage pens, but I liked the look of the marine green striated celluloid and I trust Dan, so I happily plunked down a little bit of money for this Lady Balance.  I don’t have many green pens, so that might be what caught my eye initially, but what really tugged at me was the engraved name on the barrel— MILDRED F THAYER.

Mildred F Thayer

Though we all know that vintage pens once belonged to someone else, I apparently have a soft spot for pens where the original owner is named. Especially if the name is as “vintage” as the pen. I mean, how many babies named “Mildred” do you run into these days?

Striated Celluloid & Clip

The pen arrived in very good condition (to my eye), and the green striated celluloid looks as good in person as it does in Dan’s photos. It’s a petite thing— measuring 4.75″ capped and 5.78″ posted—and weighs a mere 12.2 g, thus the “Lady” designation.  Dan noted in his description that there’s a small amount of wear on each side of the ball at the end of the clip, but to the naked eye that’s not visible. For being 70-ish years old, it’s in great shape, with a crisp SHEAFFER imprint and an easy-to-read engraving of Mildred’s name.

Sheaffer imprint

The Sheaffer’s Feather Touch nib is very fine and was initially on a little on the dry side, just as Dan noted in his post. As I’ve been using it, though, it seems to be getting just a bit wetter, while still putting down an extra-fine line. Despite its fineness, the nib is quite smooth, with just a hint of feedback— very  pleasant. Dan was able to coax some flex from the nib, but I haven’t been able to do that as yet— which I’m sure is more a reflection of me and my light touch than the nib.

Feather Touch Nib

The blind-cap reveals a narrow piston which I’ve used to vacuum fill the pen with Montblanc’s Jonathan Swift Seaweed Green— a very dusty/vintage looking green that I initially wasn’t all that crazy about. But as I hoped, it’s a perfect match for the pen. I mean, c’mon— seaweed colored ink in a marine green pen. And over time, I’ve come to love the ink as much as the pen. It’s a muted, antiquey green— not a screaming green— which matches my personality and the way I use my pens.

Blind cap & piston

So those are the pen’s details, but back to Mildred. Where did she live? What did she do? Who gave her this pen? I googled her name and found a 12-year old Mildred F Thayer in the 1940 census who lived in Petersburg, Virginia with her father (William), mother (Janie), one sister, and three brothers. Is this MY Mildred? I’ll never know. And I’ll never know if she used the pen to do school work or office work; if she used it to write grocery lists, letters, journal entries, or poems. If only the pen could talk. If only it could tell Mildred’s story.

Sheaffer Balance

But since that’s not possible, I’ll use Mildred’s pen to tell mine.

Okay: Lamy AL-Star Pearl

Lamy AL-Star Pearl
Lamy AL-Star Pearl, new for 2013

I had a Saturn sedan in this exact color (and the Goulets have TWO Pontiac Azteks in the same color). It’s not really what I would call “pearl.” Pearl, to me, is just a touch off-white with a distinctive shimmer or sheen, and this isn’t that. I don’t mind the color (obviously, since I bought the pen), but it isn’t “pearly” like nice teeth or the gate(s) leading to heaven. What it is is Saturn gold, or Aztek gold, don’t you think?

Lamy AL-Star Pearl

No worries, though. Despite the naming issue, I like this pen just fine– quite a lot actually. Coupled with the black EF nib (an option when you order from The Goulet Pen Company) and Montblanc’s Toffee Brown ink, it’s really grown on me, and I’ve been using it daily since it arrived. (For my “home” lists. For my “work” lists and notes the Lamy 2000 remains my soulmate.)

That Lamy grip
That Lamy Grip. Love it or hate it. Take it or leave it.

The contoured grip area makes the Lamy AL-Star, Safari, and Vista a no-go for some because it tends to dictate how you hold your pen. This doesn’t really bother me, so I’ve built up quite the Lamy collection without even really meaning to. (Hmmmm….mind control?) And while this 2013 color isn’t what a lot of folks were hoping for, it’s good for those looking for a “neutral” pen- one that doesn’t clash with the color of your ink.

Lamy branding

Iconic clip

The aluminum body of the AL-Star sports the same branding, iconic clip, and porthole ink window as always. Why mess with design features that are immediately recognizable and function well.

Pearl? No. Exciting? No. But I’m okay with that.

Lamy at work

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

then this…

Getting there
Getting there

then, finally, this…


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.

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!

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.

Channeling Your Inner Tigger: The Tiger Stripey Pen by Ken Cavers


Even if you’re fundamentally an Eeyore (me!), there are some things that can bring out your inner Tigger; some things that can make you bounce with excitement and utter that Tigger-esque WOOHOOHOOHOO! My Tiger Stripey pen is one of those things. Made by Ken Cavers, a physician in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Tiger Stripey is a complete package of fountain pen goodness.

Tigger with Tiger Stripey

My Twitter feed is full of interesting pen and ink enthusiasts. We trade opinions of pens and paper and ink, and share photos of our pen-related loot. Ken’s photos of his handmade pens immediately caught my eye, especially the Tiger Stripey pen that he’d recently finished and shared. This thing looked HOT. After a short stint on my wishlist, I contacted Ken to get my very own. The cool thing about Twitter (and Ken) is that I was able to see my pen progress from a rectangular block of acrylic to the finished pen in just a couple of days. Two weeks later (agonizing wait for the mail!), I had the Tiger Stripey in hand.

I chose the clipless model, preferring, in this case, to have nothing draw the eye away from the wonderfully swirled orange and black acrylic. The goldy-orangey swirls, in particular, shimmer and shine, and are almost like looking into a hologram. You can see into the depths of the acrylic. Very cool. HOT and cool.

Pretty eye catching, eh?

The two-tone German nib (a medium) is crazy smooth. Ken’s note said that this particular nib had been very good to start with, but that he’d also done a bit of smoothing to make it absolutely perfect. It really IS luscious (and I don’t throw that word around lightly…or at all). Filled with Montblanc’s Mystery Black, this is a dream pen. Simply great. And handmade. Which seems like a little miracle to me.

Sehr gut! (High school German for “very good.”)

So when I’m using the Tiger Stripey, my Eeyoreish tendencies evaporate, and I’m full of Tigger-like enthusiasm. Though my bouncing days are over, I’m bouncing on the INSIDE.

Tigger agrees.

So in conclusion…WOOHOOHOOHOO!

Pen Stalking: Chicago

Last Monday night, we took the train from Utica to Chicago for a few days of vacation. I was excited. The train! Vacation! Chicago! We traveled overnight and though sleeping was a little tricky, I loved the ride and the fact that we were practically delivered door to door.

Stupidly did not figure out the REAL footrests until 8:30 am. Oh, well!

This was vacation with a very short agenda, which is just how I like it. We knew that we were going to a White Sox-Yankees game, and that we had reserved tickets for the Field Museum, but other than that, it was all free form. Perfect.

That’s a little bit of a lie…I knew I wanted to visit Century Pens, a pen store that I had tracked down online. So Day One, off we went and found the store after a short walk.

Century Pens. We found it!

The guys in the store were great and let us poke around to our hearts’ content. I fogged up a display case or two while we were there. I held a Pilot Prera (wow…very light fountain pen!) and oogled the Krones, a line of pens that was entirely new to me. We saw the Winston Churchill pen up close and personal, thanks to the genuinely enthusiastic salesmen. Despite their enthusiasm, THAT $5900 pen stayed put, while I browsed around for something more affordable, preferably without lions. There was not a single Retro 51 in the house, because, they said, no rep ever calls on them. Darn! I was anxious to see the Invader model in person. If they had had a Monteverde Color Fusion Invincia Stealth fountain pen in stock, I would’ve swooped down on that, but it was not to be. Instead, I picked up a slightly used Stypen…a small retractable fountain pen…that caught my eye.
One store, one pen. This vacation was off to a great start.

Capped Stypen

Deployed Stypen

By then, I was so hungry that I could’ve eaten a skyscraper, so we took a break.

Yes, I was THAT hungry.

Next up…Dick Blick! I’ve seen their website, but never an actual store. I explored the place from top to bottom but in the end made just a few small purchases, but I’m very happy with them.
1) Rhodia No. 16 Dot Pad. WOW. I didn’t really get to try it out until I was home, but this paper is THE BEST for fountain pens. And i love the dots. They provide just enough structure without getting in the way. Great stuff.
2) Pilot G2 0.38 mm (black). I tested a few Stabilos and LePens, but couldn’t quite get into them, and instead opted for the super crisp line of the 0.38 mm G2. Though G2s are easy to come by locally, that tip size isn’t. Super cheap, but very nice.
3) Pilot G2 0.38 mm (red). See #2, just in red.
Nothing exotic purchased there, but these were solid finds, nonetheless.

Rhodia No. 16 Dot Pad…yum!

Not fancy, but oh so crisp.

On Thursday, our last day, we trekked WAY up N. Michigan Ave. in search of the Montblanc Boutique. Once there, I hesitated at the threshold. It’s a fancy place and there I was in my shorts and Life Is Good t-shirt. Awkward! But the salesman, Brian Morrow, couldn’t have been nicer. I asked if they had a Limited Edition Alfred Hitchcock fountain pen, which they did. He sat us down, donned a glove, and got out the $3000 beauty. I was hesitant to touch it because I’d forgotten to pack my pen-handling glove (silly me), but no worries…he handed it to me to examine. VERY cool. Heavy in details…twisting design on barrel, dagger clip, etc. But a tad pricey. Just a tad. (I’d also forgotten to pack my bag o’ money.)

After we finished with the Hitchcock, and it was returned to its vault, Brian brought out the Limited Edition Jonathan Swift fountain pen that had JUST arrived at the store. I’d heard about the Swift pen on an FPGeeks podcast where the design was much debated, but to be honest, I liked this one better than the Hitchcock. The “trifoil” cap, the ladder-like clip, and the inlaid rope design make for a very good-looking pen (in my opinion). I may have drooled just a little bit. This one runs $900+ so while it was fun to hold, we resisted Brian’s charms, and walked out with just one bottle of Montblanc Mystery Black ink. Ah, the restraint.

And with that, our Chicago vacation came to a close. I loved the city’s architecture, museums, and parks. I loved the super friendly people. And, of course, I loved the pens. (If only I’d packed that bag of money!)

Oh, Chicago, you made me smile.

Inkfest 2012 Begins: The Lamy Nexx with Mont Blanc Toffee Brown Ink

The players

Pen: Lamy Nexx with EF nib
Ink: Mont Blanc Toffee Brown

I’ve had this pen for quite awhile (maybe for years?), but never did much with it, despite the wonderful smoothness of the nib. Even in the EF size, this nib glides! I stuck with the standard Lamy cartridges in basic black (or sometimes blue, if I was feeling particularly wild). Sooooo…nice pen, but kind of boring, which was entirely MY fault.

But I’ve been learning a lot this year, pen and ink-wise. Thanks to the…
1) Pen Addict podcasts;
2) Fountain Pen Geeks website & podcasts;
3) SBRE Brown’s youtube reviews (like THIS one on the Lamy Nexx); and
4) The Goulet’s Ink Nouveau website.
It’s like attending pen and ink college, and my “teachers” have made me crave something beyond the blue and black cartridges. I have, finally, started to explore the world of bottled inks. And what a world it is!

I’ve always pictured that bottled ink would lead to stained fingers and clothes, stained countertops and carpets, maybe even stained pets, but I have remained relatively stain-free (knock on wood!). What this HAS lead to is a new-found love for my languishing fountain pens.

I ordered this Mont Blanc Toffee Brown ink from Dalys Pen Shop, and literally said, “WOW!” as soon as it hit the paper. Like, OUT LOUD. This is exactly the brown I was looking for. I know how to describe ink about as well as I know how to describe wine or art (not very), but I know what I like when I see it. This brown instantly clicked with me. Was I influenced by the word “toffee” in the name? Quite possibly.

Mont Blanc Toffee Brown ink on Levenger Circa paper

I picked up the Lamy Nexx from JetPens because of the orange cap (which apparently they don’t carry anymore…sniff). Shallow? Maybe. I also like the look and feel of the brushed aluminum barrel and clip.

Lamy Nexx

Cap & clip

The triangular aluminum barrel and rubber grip section feel great. No grip issues for me at all. I’m pretty sure that my handwriting improves when I use this pen, and I credit the triangular grip for that. (How many times can I say “grip”? A lot, apparently.)

Aluminum barrel

Rubber grip

On Twitter, lots of folks (kiddingly) “blame” other pen reviewers for making them empty their wallets to purchase reviewed inks or pens. But I’d like to give credit, rather than blame, to my pen & ink “faculty”…Brad Dowdy & Myke Hurley (for The Pen Addict podcasts), Eric Schneider & Dan Smith (for Fountain Pen Geeks), SBRE (Stephen) Brown (of youtube fame), and Brian and Rachel Goulet (of The Goulet Pen Company and Ink Nouveau) for quietly encouraging me to dust off my fountain pens and explore the world of bottled inks. There’s a WHOLE inky world of color out there.

Let’s play!