Category Archives: Fountain Pens and Ink

A Vintage Find: Shaeffer Balance Fountain Pen

Can you find love on the internet? Sure. I mean, that’s how I met my husband. But you can also head on over to Ebay and find a vintage fountain pen!

I’ve loved the idea of fountain pens for quite some time, though I only started actually buying them a few years ago. It’s a dangerous hobby, as it’s addictive and can be quite expensive. There are plenty of cheap fountain pens out there (like the Jinaho X450), but I find myself gravitating toward the more expensive ones (like the Pilot Custom 823, which I definitely don’t own yet).

Though I haven’t yet felt I could justify spending $300 for a pen, I was quite interested in trying a gold nib. The cheapest way to do this was to go vintage, and that’s when I found this beauty.

I’m no photographer, and this really doesn’t show how gorgeous this pen is.

This vintage Shaeffer Balance had everything I was looking for: a gold nib in medium flex, a vacuum system (something I hadn’t tried yet but wanted to), and fully restored internals.

That last part was really important! Many older pens are lever fill, which means they have an internal rubber sac that degrades over time. The vacuum systems have rubber diaphragms that can also break down. I’ll admit that I considered restoring a pen myself, not only to save money but also to make sure I got exactly what I wanted. I need another hobby like a hole in the head, and in the end it was easier to spend a little extra cash instead of doing all the research and work.

The next challenge with this particular pen was finding the right ink. Someone in the online fountain pen group I joined pointed out that anything permanent, corrosive, glittery, or difficult to clean shouldn’t be used in a vintage, vacuum-fill pen. That filling system also meant this wouldn’t be the sort of pen I’d want to constantly swap colors in.

After a lot of late-night shopping and indecision, I settled on Monteverde Olivine. I already knew I liked Monteverde inks from previous experience, and the price was too good to pass up. I knew I wanted this ink to match the pen (I told my daughter I was looking for ink the color of an old couch, and I meant that in the most loving way possible), and since I like a smooth writing experience I wouldn’t mind that it’s lubricated.

Okay. After all that, you probably just ant to know about the pen itself, right? Honestly, it’s amazing. The Shaeffer Balance feels wonderful in my hand, with just the right Goldilocks size and weight to avoid fatigue during a long writing session. The gold nib is mostly smooth with just a touch of feedback. It writes beautifully, and since the pen is close to one hundred years old I can forgive it for a few hard starts here and there. The vac-fill holds a lot of ink and is pretty easy to fill.

If you really want to know how I feel about this pen, I’ll tell you this: I told my husband recently that if I had to sell all my fountain pens and could only keep one, the Shaeffer Balance would be it.

What’s your favorite pen? Have you had any luck buying vintage? I’d love to know!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Fountain Pen Review: Monteverde Essenza

I can’t tell you how many times I drooled over the Monteverde Essenza online. I constantly checked the prices on several retailers’ websites, hoping that someone would have it one some wild flash sale if I only managed to catch it at the right moment. It was just one of those things that reached right through the screen and told me it wanted to come home with me.

And now that it is home, let’s talk about it! The first thing I have to say is that this pen just looks nothing like the pictures online. It looks smooth, but the barrel and cap actually have long facets. Also, because it’s a resin pen, the colors are going to be slightly different on each one. I was personally hoping for a little more yellow, whereas mine is mostly blue. It’s still beautiful and a bit shimmery, but not what I expected.

This pen is heavy! I love a good heavy pen, though it can be a bit fatiguing for long writing sessions. It’s worth a little bit of muscle-building to experience this buttery smooth nib. This thing just glides!

I haven’t had any issues with leaking or assembling, and it feels like it’s well-made. It’s definitely one of my favorites!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Fountain Pen Review: Pilot Metropolitan

What makes the perfect pen? One that’s not too thick or thin, not too heavy or light, and comes in all sorts of both conservative and wild colors? Oh, and it writes beautifully and consistently? Yes, the Goldilocks pen. And it’s the Pilot Metropolitan.

As I already said, the Metropolitan is a great size. It has just the right thickness, length, balance, and weight to make for long writing sessions without fatigue. The matte finish on the metal body just feels wonderful. The classic cigar shape and the multitude of colors means it’s pleasant to look at as well as to work with.

I actually have this in two colors, one in a fine nib and one in a medium. I love the fine when I’m working with cheaper paper, so that I don’t have to worry as much about bleedthrough. What I’m really looking for in a fountain pen is the smoothness of the writing experience and the ability to lay down a lot of ink without stopping, so the medium is great for plotting out novels.

I think it’s also really important that we talk about the price point on this pen. Though of course the price fluctuates a little from one retailer to another, the Metropolitan is around $20. I admit that there was a time when I felt that was expensive for a pen, which now makes me laugh. Even if this is at the high end of your pen budget, I promise it’s worth it.

The only downside to the Metropolitan is the included converter. It’s a bladder style, which means you can’t see exactly how much ink you’ve drawn up into it. That’s not a huge deal if you’re working at home right next to your ink bottle, but it’s a problem on the road. Fortunately, the pen is compatible with the Pilot CON-40, which is more like a traditional converter. I’ve heard this converter leaks some, but so far I haven’t had problems with mine.

In short, I’m just crazy about the Pilot Metropolitan. It feels amazing, writes wonderfully, and works extremely well as an everyday pen. I already own two and am considering a third, and my husband has a few of them as well. Five stars!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Fountain Pen Review: Conklin Duragraph ‘Water’

I’m running behind on my pen reviews, so it’s time to catch up!

This Conklin Duragraph is from their Elements series, and I just couldn’t resist the mix of clear and colored resin for the ‘Water’ finish. I ordered it in a medium nib. I have it inked up here with Tobacco Sunburst by Diamine.

What I Love: I’ve had this pen since March (told you I was behind!), so I’ve had some time to really get to know it. This thing is just rock solid. It’s always a ready starter, with no need to encourage the ink to get flowing. I noticed as I was taking the pictures that there’s a bit of ink splattered on the inside of the cap. I can only conclude that this is from dropping it a few times, because it’s never leaked on me. The enclosed converter holds plenty of ink, and the nib is quite smooth. The pen is a great weight, and I feel like I could write with it all day without issue.

What I Don’t Love: This nib is really stiff, so it doesn’t always give me quite the feel I’m looking for when I’m writing. As I’ve noted, though, it’s still very smooth. The nib is black while the trim is rose gold, which I think looks a little silly.

Overall, I think this is a pretty great pen. I liked it enough that I my very next pen was a Conklin as well, but that’s a different review!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Okay, There’s One Downside to Fountain Pens…

Why not end the summer with a small disaster, right?

I was quietly working away at my desk, handwriting a story I’ve been wanting to write for months.  I didn’t have any upcoming deadlines with my freelance work, the kids were all occupied, and everything was perfect.

Then my pen ran out of ink.  That’s not really a problem, since I keep several bottles of fountain pen ink on hand (and I’d love to have many, many more, like this one).  But just as I set my bottle of Noodler’s North African Violet on my desk and turned to the shelf to grab a secondary pen to fill, the cat jumped on my desk.

Taken during a much more peaceful time…

Now I should say here that I’ve let him on my desk before.  But I’ve tried to stop this habit, since Elwood has very little concern for what he might knock out of the way to make himself comfortable.  He oozes out over the surface of the desk, pushing aside my computer and my notebooks, sending my planner slipping down between the cracks of the furniture, and has even once spilled an entire (and rather large) cup of water in my desk drawer.  Then, of course, there are the necessary deposits of fluffy orange hair he leaves behind.

This time, the ink was the victim.  It crashed to the floor, cracking the cap and sending purple ink splattering all over the vintage hardwood.  The thin finish had no chance of keeping that dark liquid from seeping into all the tiny cracks.  My kids came rushing in when they heard the commotion and readily volunteered to help.  They brought paper towels and rags as we assessed the damage, discovering that North African Violet had splattered onto the rug and splashed onto the sofa.  We scrubbed drops of purple from the bottom of my desk chair and our feet and the fireplace hearth.

That was enough of a catastrophe, but amaranthine streaks on the kitchen floor (three rooms away) indicated that the mess had become mobile.  Two of my dogs, who’d been so faithfully resting under my desk at the time of the incident, now looked like they’d tried to steal an expensive coat at Macy’s.

Not my dog, but I was a little too preoccupied to take a picture…

Is there an upside to any of this, you may be asking?  Well, yes.  The dogs needed baths, anyway, and the ink came out of their fur better than it came out of anything else.  The rug is heavily patterned, so the hundreds of little purple spots aren’t all that visible.  And it’s always an excuse to buy more ink, right?

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Pen Review: Sheaffer Ferrari 100 Fountain Pen

I might not have a true sports car, but the Ferrari 100 truly lives up to its name!

This pen came in the July 2018 iPenBox.  I’ve been meaning to post a review about it ever since!  The theme of the box was “fast,” and that seems very appropriate in this case.  Not only is the pen named after the iconic vehicle, it writes swiftly, efficiently, and smoothly.

The pen came with two cartridges, but the converter included also works beautifully.  There are no skips, and the pen has a nice heavy weight to it.  The Ferrari really lays down some ink, so whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing just depends on your use.  If you’re a fountain pen connoisseur and you typically use premium paper, then I think you’ll absolutely love it.  If you just use regular paper (like me), then be prepared to only use one side of it.

Like any sports car, looks are just as important as performance.  The smooth red pen is good looking on its own, and it doesn’t hurt to have the Ferrari logo on the end of the cap!

The Ferrari with the rest of the iPenBox from July of 2018.

What’s even better than having a nice pen to write with that also looks great on your desk?  Texting your friends and family and telling them you now own a Ferrari!

This pen can still be purchased through the iPenstore or Amazon.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

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Pen Review: Parker Vector Fountain

I received this pen as part of the May iPenBox from the iPenstore.  While it took me a minute to get around to it, I’m pretty pleased!

The first thing I noticed is that there are very few skips, even on paper not meant for fountain pens.  It writes very smoothly, and I only noticed I was getting more skips when I was about to run out of ink.  Then all of a sudden, the ink was gone!  To add to this, the Vector picked right back up even after having left it for three days, and I didn’t have to scribble or coax it into restarting.  The nib is a nice shape and feels very solid.

The Vector is incredibly lightweight.  That’s not something I usually like in a pen, and the weight made me think I wouldn’t like this pen at all.  But since it writes so well, it kind of works.

I used this pen with the blue ink cartridge that came with it.  The cartridge held quite a bit of ink, but it wasn’t anything particularly special.  It was actually a bit watery.  It didn’t run or drip, but it didn’t make a nice bold mark on the page.  When I get around to trying this pen with a converter (which it doesn’t come with), then I think I’ll really enjoy it.

This pen is very slim.  That can be a great thing if you’re slipping it into a pocket or purse, but the willowy build and the straight grip can be a little tiring after a while.  I actually grabbed my Shaeffer POP ballpoint when I ran out of ink and needed to finish a thought.  I’m not the biggest fan of the POP just because it’s so fat, but it was a relief after an hour with the Vector.

Overall, I recommend the Vector if you want something that writes smoothly and without giving you trouble, but you don’t mind a skinny pen.  It’s an inexpensive pen in the $12-$15 range, and it’s available on the iPenStore.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Pen Review: Baoer 801 Slim

This pen came in the June 2018 iPen subscription box and I really only have one thing to say:  I’m in love!

Baoer 801 Slim

This pen is lightweight but is balanced beautifully.  Everything on it exudes quality, from the way the lid attaches to the top to the way it comes apart.  The nib is technically a medium, but it’s very much a fine (my favorite).  It writes so smoothly and easily that I have occasionally forgotten I’m not writing with a ballpoint.  As soon as I got this pen, I went through three converters full of ink.

Baoer sample

You want to hear the kicker?  This pen is less than $7!  It feels and writes like it’s much more expensive.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.  I recommend the Baoer to anyone who likes writing with a nice fountain pen but doesn’t want to invest a lot of money.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Pen Review: Retro 51 Slim Tornado Ballpoint Pen

I don’t often feel compelled to do a review on a ballpoint pen, but I was beyond excited when I received this in the June 2018 iPenBox.  I’ve been eyeballing the Retro 51 pens for quite some time, but I’d never actually broken down and gotten one.

Retro 51 Tornado

Let’s talk about aesthetics, first.  I was thrilled to see that I ended up with the lavender version, since purple is my favorite color.  The finish is a beautiful satin that looks and feels great.  It also comes in an adorable box that I just can’t seem to throw away.  And since it doubles as a pen stand, I don’t have to!

This pen instantly went into my desk rotation, meaning it’s in the special cup of pens that I use on a regular basis.  It had a nice, heavy weight to it and writes so smoothly I almost feel like I can’t keep up!  The Slim Tornado is an absolute joy to use, and it’s definitely one that I’ll be buying refills for.

This pen retails for $23.97 on iPenStore.com.

Retro 51 with box

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Dragon’s Napalm – An Ink Review

What do you do when you buy some ink that happens to come with a free pen, and you discover that you’re absolutely in love with said pen?  You buy more ink, of course!

I fell in love with the Charlie pen by Noodler’s that came with my purchase of Heart of Darkness.  These larger bottles with pens were a special edition limited run, but they can still be found out there on Amazon, eBay, and several other sites.

I couldn’t resist an ink named Dragon’s Napalm, and so I’ve now added it to my collection.  As fun as it was to watch black ink slosh around inside the pen, it’s even more fun with Dragon’s Napalm, which is rather bloodlike.  I can sign all my future contracts in blood now, yay!

The ink comes out in a brilliant cherry red, reminiscent of dragons guarding their hordes of gold deep in the mountains of 1960’s fantasy novels.  Like all Noodler’s inks that I have experienced, it flows well and is such a joy to write with.  It’s perfect for proofreading or plotting the death of antagonists.

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