Category Archives: Fountain Pens and Ink

Fountain Pen Review: Pelikan M200 (My First Pelikan!)

If you follow this blog, then you probably know that I collect fountain pens. Although I’ve mostly just been buying vintage pens lately, I’m thrilled with the brand new Pelikan my husband bought me for Valentine’s Day! (Yes, I’m a lot late on getting this posted!)

The two things that first attracted me to this Pelikan M200 were the beautiful colors and the fact that it’s a piston filler. I get annoyed with converter pens, because they often don’t flow as quickly as I’d like them to. I hadn’t tried a piston yet, but I have several lever-fillers and a vac-fill that I love. (Those, however, are all vintage.) The piston is super easy to operate, and it allows the pen to hold tons of ink! The ink window and the semi-transparent barrel allow you to see that you sucked up all that ink. The flow is excellent, and I tend to be a pretty fast writer. I have a broad nib on this pen.

The steel nib felt a little odd at first, with more feedback than I’d expected, but either I got used to it or it got used to me. It’s a dream to write with on either high or low quality paper, which isn’t something I can say about all pens.

The dimensions of the Pelikan M200–paired with the large ink capacity–make it ideal for long writing sessions. It’s lightweight without feeling cheap, and it balances perfectly when posted. The grip is wide enough to prevent cramping, but it’s not bulky. Of my modern pens, this is the one I reach for the most!

Overall, I think this is a pretty great pen. I’ll be using it a lot to write to my pen pals or plot stories, and I’m happy to have it in my collection.

Do you have the M200 or another Pelikan? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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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: Vintage Parker Vacumatic

Have you ever seen something so beautiful you just had to have it? Something that just makes your heart stop, something that makes you obsess over it a bit too much, especially once you think you have a chance of obtaining it, even though it’s just a material item?

That’s how I felt about the Parker Vacumatic the first time I saw one. There was just something so Wow! about that stacked celluloid, with bright lines of color so equally interspersed with dark that they look like a skyscraper at night. Of course, on my journey with vintage fountain pens, it’s often the celluloid that gets me. It’s just gorgeous.

I just can’t even show you how beautiful this really is!

I thought about the Vacumatic a lot, watching numerous eBay auctions go to someone else because I wasn’t willing to spend the money. Finally the stars aligned (along with my finances and just the right auction) and a Vacumatic was on its way to me! I should also say here that I was also waiting for just the right pen to be up for sale. It had to be restored and in working order, preferably one of the slightly larger sizes, and definitely at least a medium nib. Check, check, and check. I crossed my fingers and hoped it was as nice to write with as I’d imagined.

This particular Vacumatic is a color called Golden Pearl. It’s kind of a fancy term for brown, but honestly it’s absolutely beautiful. The imprint is clear, with the date stamp showing it was made in 1941. (Thank you, Parker, for not making me guess like I usually do on my vintage pens!) I was incredibly pleased to find that the nib is in better shape than it appeared to be online, and the trim is in great condition. The barrel transparency is wonderful, letting you really see the huge amount of ink this thing can suck up.

I know, I know. But how does it write?

My first dip test was all I could’ve hoped for. The pen was incredibly smooth with very little feedback, which is how I like mine. I did use just a little micromesh to tune it up a bit, and then I was reaching for it every time I needed to write.

I did start to have problems after a couple days. The ink flow wasn’t keeping up with my writing speed, and the tines were constantly picking up paper fibers, essentially clogging itself. I’d filled the Vacumatic with Diamine Autumn Oak. Diamine can be a bit of a dry ink, and I know oranges often crust over. I flushed it out and refilled, but that wasn’t helping. I started to really worry. Was I going to have to send my precious Parker back? Would I get another one for such a good price? Did a pay too good of a price and now I was getting what I deserved?

It turned out the nib and feed were slightly misaligned, a small and simple fix I should’ve found right away. The Vac is now filled with Monteverde Horizon Blue, a lubricated ink that truly adds to the smoothness and makes for a lovely writing experience. I can’t say that I regret my purchase at all, and it’s so nice to see there’s some truth to the hype behind these pens.

Now there are other colors to collect!

If you want to know more about the Parker Vacumatic, I highly recommend checking out this article by Richard Binder.

Do you own or have you tried a Parker Vacumatic? I’d love to hear about it!

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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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Discovering the Lost Art of Letter Writing

Or perhaps the title should say Rediscovering, because it isn’t as though I’ve never written a letter before! Anyway…

You never know where clicking that “Accept Invitation” button will lead you!

A friend of mine invited me to join a Facebook group of likeminded women recently. I didn’t have to think about accepting, since I’ve been really enjoying focused groups on Facebook for quite some time. I belong to at least one group for pretty much everything I’m into, whether it’s cross stitch, writing, fountain pens, or bearded dragons.

Soon afterwards, a pen pal project arose within the group where members would be randomly assigned to another member to write to for a couple of months. I didn’t have to think at all about joining the project. An excuse to use my vintage fountain pens? Yes, please! What could go wrong?

Well, maybe not wrong, but it’s certainly given me yet another hobby. I’d forgotten just how much I love writing letters. Even more so, I love getting them! I couldn’t settle for just one pen pal, and so I joined yet another Facebook group which focuses specifically on that. The next thing I knew, I was buying digital stationery to print out on my favorite high-quality paper. That led to envelope templates that I could trace onto scrapbook paper, and these envelopes are way cuter than what’s available in the office supply store. Then came stickers, stamps, and so many glorious rolls of washi tape!

While I really do love using the materials, I have to say it’s also wonderful to find a way to connect with people offline. Especially in a time when we’re all stuck at home more than usual, it’s refreshing to take a short trip downtown to check the post office box, and even more so to sit down with a pen and paper to reply.

So much of our lives happens on a screen, whether it’s a phone, a computer, or a television. There’s no doubt that the digital world has truly come into its own during the pandemic. Zoom meetings, remote learning, online grocery orders. It’s all really fantastic in so many ways. That online world has brought me offline, where I’d much rather be.

It’s also been interesting to find out how many people have never sent a letter in their life, who post in the group questions about how to address an envelope, how to buy a stamp, or even how to use a mailbox. I’ve even met a few who can’t read cursive. I’m not criticizing these people, especially because I know some of them are younger than I am and probably grew up writing emails to Grandma instead of letters. I just think it’s interesting that it’s already something that’s so old-fashioned as to become a novelty.

Have you had a pen pal, or do you now? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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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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A Vintage Find: Sheaffer 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 Sheaffer 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 Sheaffer 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 Sheaffer 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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