Taroko Design A5 Notebook

Tomoe River Taroko notebook review fountain pen ink sheen
  • Where to buy: Bureau Direct [here]
  • Price: £7.95 (other size options are available which are different prices. This is the A5 price)
  • Page count: 32 individual sheets
  • Paper: Tomoe River
  • Paper weight: 68gsm
  • Layout: Dot, lined & plain
  • Binding: Stapled (pages are not perforated)
  • Recommend? – For the UK market this would be fantastic as it offers a great way to try out Tomoe River paper. However, there are other options that are more economical (£/page) such as the Seven Seas Writer by Nanami. For us in the UK (and perhaps Europe too?) this might not be the best option due to shipping and customs etc.

I’m rather intrigued by the Taroko Design notebooks. I’ve owned the 124mm x 88mm passport size before and used it as an ink log, so I’m familiar with the notebook, but in a different size.

Taroko Design notebook review

There are many things that I love about the Taroko Design notebooks. The paper is 68gsm Tomoe River, which is somewhat difficult to source in the UK and is a cheap way to try the paper if you’ve never used it before. The quality is fantastic, but I shall get onto that further down. Another thing that really draws me to the notebooks are how thin the front & back pages are. Along with the 68gsm pages inside, the result is a very small and compact notebook – something thin enough that you could slip into a packed laptop bag or something of the sort with ease.

Taroko Design A5 notebook Tomoe River review pen
Is this still cool? You can use the notebooks for various 100% serious applications.

Tomoe River has a famous status within the writing community – and rightly so (there was the option for a pun there. I didn’t take it. You’re welcome)! When fountain pen ink is laid down onto Tomoe River the paper really does show off the ink in some of the most beautiful ways, and the most common way is through sheening. There are also a lot of shading opportunities, which you often get with less absorbent paper. So while the paper is great for playing with inks and the such, be wary of dry times as they do tend to be longer than other types of paper (I did a quick test between Rhodia, Clairefontaine & TR and the latter easily came out on top as making inks seem wetter). This is a pro and a con because on the one hand you get lovely wet lines put down that allow inks to really come into character on the page, though it also means you’ve got longer dry times and so if you’re jotting something down quickly then you’ll likely get ink on the opposite page when you close the notebook if you don’t give it long enough to dry.

Tomoe River Taroko notebook review fountain pen ink sheen
do u sheen bro? [Diamine Onyx Black & Sailor Hankyu Department Store LE Maroon]
Diamine Bilberry Sheen Bureau Direct Taroko design Tomoe River notebook review
Diamine Bilberry was written in a Pilot Capless [Vanishing Point] fine nib and I still witnessed a lot of sheen.
Tomoe River sheen Sailor Hankyu department store limited edition Maroon ink

On the topic of ghosting, it is noticeable, but I’m rather impressed because it actually holds up better to paper that’s thicker than 68gsm, which isn’t too shabby. I get no bleed or feathering, even with nibs that cry ink onto the paper.

Taroko Design writing sample ink sheen fountain pen tomoe river
Various writing samples with different inks and pens. The paper handles the inks phenomenally well.
Tomoe River Taroko Design notebook review
Shot of the reverse. Ghosting is obvious but there’s absolutely no bleedthrough.

While I’m a fan of the thin, somewhat delicate, front and back covers, this might not appeal to everyone. It does mean there’s a risk of tearing, bending and otherwise damaging the ‘clean’ look of the notebook, but does offer the opportunity to give it the “pocket notebook” treatment where the notebook does get a little beaten up which is something some people in the EDC community quite like the look of. But if you want to keep the notebook looking pristine then I’d be careful how you’re packing the notebook in – the thinness of the notebook is definitely both a blessing and a curse depending on how you look at it and your personal preferences.

Taroko Design Notebook review Bureau Direct Tomoe River
The black lined notebook
Taroko Design Notebook review Bureau Direct Tomoe River
Dot grid brown notebook.

There’s the option for the Taroko notebooks to come in lined, dotted & plain paper – each paper design with a different front and back cover (black, brown & dark blue respectively). The different front covers makes it easy if you want to pick up a notebook on the fly and don’t want to faff around opening each notebook to make sure that you’ve got the right paper type that you want in that moment. Of course, this assumes you’ve got at least more than one paper type. It would be great to see the option to choose your paper type and the colour of the front/back covers – though I do understand from a manufacturer’s stand point where the logistics may not be that easy to execute. Even though Leuchtturm are able to achieve this, Taroko aren’t pumping out notebooks at the same rate as Leuchtturm to give people such a wide choice of colour and paper. For the same reason, this is why I’m not surprised we’re not seeing green or neon pink colours and only these three. Though it does lend itself to a formal and conservative look that I rather admire.

In what has turned out to be my shortest review, I’ll conclude and say that this notebook has many fantastic applications. It won’t take up much space in a bag, the paper is amazing so you don’t sacrifice a good writing experience either. It is also great for personal use – I have been testing this out at a local pen meet up that I go to roughly every month because of how well the ink looks on this paper when I am trying out various inks or pens. It’ll certainly make taking notes fun (or perhaps distracting..!), though if you’re taking notes then you may want something larger as a result such as full A4 loose sheet Tomoe River paper, but then you run into a far higher price as a result. If you’re looking for a cheap way to try Tomoe River as well as an easy way to source it (speaking in terms of getting it within the UK) then you cannot go wrong with these notebooks.

Pros:

  • Thin notebooks
  • Great way to test out Tomoe River paper – for a cheap price!
  • Tomoe River paper! Really highlights the characteristics of an ink

Cons:

  • Dry times are long
  • Damage to front/back covers may be off putting to some (but aesthetically pleasing to others!)

Disclaimer: These notebooks were provided by Bureau Direct in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are my own and I received no other compensation for doing this review.

Manuscript ML1856 Fountain Pen

Manuscript ML1856 fountain pen review United Inkdom
  • Where to buy: Cult Pens [Here]
  • Price: £125
  • Recommend?: For this price? Absolutely no way. It’s a step up from other Manuscript pens and is great pen – but the price tag that accompanies it is ambitious.

Manuscript is a British company that has been around since 1856. Being around for over 150 years, it is no surprise that this is not my first experience with Manuscript. I seem to remember always seeing their starter calligraphy sets in WH. Smiths and Ryman. The ML1856 is, thankfully, a step-up from these sets. With a price of £125, one should hope so – but I will get to that at the end. This is certainly an improvement from their other products, which is encouraging to see.

Manuscript ML1856 Turquoise Ocean

I got the 1.5mm stub nib. In the ML1856 range, Manuscript offers a 1.1mm stub, 1.5mm  stub and ‘handwriting nib’ options. The nibs are from JoWo in Germany and I think it is no surprise that Manuscript offer two stub nibs given their heritage. In my opinion, this allows Manuscript to pay homage to their past, while remaining a tool for the modern writer. This brings me on to the ‘handwriting nib’. It’s a medium nib – nothing special. The downside is that there are no (extra) broad/fine nib options.

1.5mm fountain pen nib review calligraphy

However, if you do want something other than a medium or a stub nib, it shouldn’t be difficult to achieve; the ML1856 fits a #6 sized nib and the pen is very easy to disassemble – this will of course add to the cost. But it might be something that’ll appeal to some people, as it means you can have things such as gold (or even titanium! (which I reviewed separately for my Namisu review)) nibs as well as various other nib grades. The new nib won’t be branded with the Manuscript logo. Regardless, even though the medium is a ‘handwriting’ nib, you can still use the stubs perfectly normally. Writing the handwritten review, I actually found that I might prefer using a stub in some applications when I have time on my side, such as journalling, to write. For anyone who hasn’t tried a stub before, I would recommend trying one from someone like TWSBI, who do 1.1mm and 1.5mm stubs. At any rate, I would not recommend just spending £125 on a pen with a nib, such as this, you’re unsure of if you’ve never used it before. TWSBIs are cheaper, easier to source and will be easier to sell/trade if you don’t like the nib.

You may wish to try a Lamy Safari stub, but I don’t know how they feel in comparison. For what it’s worth, I prefer the 1.5mm stub compared to the 1.1mm. In addition, I know that Lamy offer 1.9mm stubs if that’s something you’re interested in and not something I see very often. I’m not aware of how easy it is to find these nibs, so if you can’t find them listed with Lamy pens from your retailers then it might be worth dropping them a message.

1.1mm nib comparison with 1.5mm nib JoWo

1.1mm nib comparison with 1.5mm nib JoWo
Do I see feathering?!

The stub nib means you can dive a little deeper into certain types of calligraphy. In my opinion this is how Manuscript stays true to their history. Writing with a stub means you can get some pretty awesome line variation, which lends itself nicely to things such as gothic scripts. I think it goes without saying, but the 1.5mm has more line variation than the 1.1mm. This is natural line variation and I am not talking about flex. In fact, I have found this particular nib to be very, very stiff (as you will see in the picture below).

The difference between a stub and an italic is that the edges are rounded off on a stub which means you will have a smoother experience than a true italic, but as a result you sacrifice crisper line variation. I think it’s this smoothness that means you don’t get much feedback. While this might be great for some, I personally prefer a touch of feedback when writing. The nib is wet and the feed keeps up well which is important for the nature of the nib. However, interestingly enough, I found that when I tried a friend’s medium – sorry – handwriting – nib, I found it to be far wetter than this one. Though as you can see below, this is definitely a wet nib. In terms of reverse writing, no. Just no. It feels horrible and is slightly difficult, as well as being extremely dry after a while. I also mentioned in the paragraph above that the nib is very stiff. I could squeeze some line variation, but it didn’t feel pleasant to do so.

Manuscript ML1856 1.5mm stub fountain pen nib review
Written on Clairfontaine paper. Top line is normal writing, below that is fast writing and I see no skips; the feed performs well. Next I assess the wetness (very wet) and the flexibility (not much) of the nib. Faintly below is a reverse writing sample and it fairs poorly.

So let’s talk about something other than the nib. How beautiful is this pen?! In fact, all of the designs are very nice. What strikes me is that they all have a custom pen aesthetic. Below are three pens that I think look like they could be custom pens due to their design. However, it’s only the John Twiss one on the right that’s custom made.

John Twins fountain pen Manuscript fountain pen Laban pen review custom pen
Left to right: Laban Mento, Manuscript ML1856, John Twiss custom pen

This particular design, Turquoise Ocean, is slightly translucent. If you hold the pen body up to the light, if you are able to see the ink level in your converter, as well as the converter itself. I’m sure I will be asked – yes you can eyedropper this. I want to make it clear however that it is not advertised as an eyedropper. I also haven’t tried using ink in it, but I have tried with water and it seems to be sealed.

fullsizeoutput_d14
Do u swirl bro?

I do find that Turquoise Ocean seems to have a feminine look to it. This isn’t something that really bothers me. But to some it may be a pro or a con. But I’m not one to be bothered. I think the design is hot. Though, I can’t seem to help and think that something like “Sea Green” would be a better name. It isn’t quite turquoise, but isn’t quite green either. #WhatColourIsTheDress?

The furniture on the pen, and indeed all of the pens in this line as far as I am aware, is silver. But while I prefer gold furniture, I think it would overpower the body. As with my M620 Piccadilly Circus I shall, on this occasion, accept silver. But on other models, I think gold would be a great feature.

Next is the clip. It has 1856 with two embossed circles. Why the circles? No, I don’t know either. I also don’t enjoy, and this is being extremely picky, the font that is used. I’m not sure if writing the year that the company was founded in a modern font is supposed to give some sort of contrast between old and new? If that is the case then they should’ve used a nicer font than what seems to be Arial (or at least some sort of sans-serif font). I would like to see something more calligraphic or classic. But at least it isn’t Comic Sans, ey?

fullsizeoutput_d1e

The clip itself is somewhat stiff, but usable. Perhaps “stiff” is the wrong word. Maybe “strong”.

The cap screws off to reveal a resin section that matches the body and cap. It is long and flares at the bottom. Because of my weird grip, I do have my index on the threads, but I don’t feel them.

Manuscript ML1856 fountain pen review United Inkdom

If you are someone who wants to post their pens, this isn’t for you. Though this is already a fairly decent size and I think posting would be unnecessary(M600 size uncapped). Posting makes it even larger by the fact that it doesn’t post very deep and the cap isn’t held on very securely either. What you are left with is a golf club. Personally I prefer larger pens. but Manuscript can appeal to all writers with this size – and it’s not a small pen at all anyway. Furthermore, because the pen is resin it is lighter compared to others. If you are doing some sort of calligraphy, then you would probably want a lighter pen. This would be a great way to segue into the weights and measurements… But that’ll be left for the end.

Pelikan M620 fountain pen Manuscript fountain pen review
Birb

 

Manuscript TWSBI Eco Pelikan M800 Souveran Pilot Custom 823 size comparison fountain pen Manuscript ML1856 review
Comparisons between TWSBI Eco, Platinum #3776 (left) & Pelikan M800, Pilot Custom 823 (right)

 

If you don’t want the Manuscript but are looking for something similar then I would suggest you look into custom pens. This will drive the price up depending on what you ask for, but you could easily get something very nice for roughly the same price as this – and of course it’s going to be custom to you. If I remember correctly, my John Twiss pen (above) cost me £135.

All in all, I am impressed with this pen and pleased with how it performs in comparison to other Manuscript products I’ve used. However, I don’t think that I am £125 worth of pleased. It seems much of the price is the aesthetic, which is understandable up to a certain limit, but £100+ is above that limit. The pen offers stub nibs, which I think is great, but so do other brands; there’s nothing offered like a piston filling mechanism or a gold nib. As I said, I am impressed, but I think this would sit better in a price range of £50-70. I mentioned my Twiss pen costing £135 and personally I think it’s worth the extra tenner, but at a lower price I wouldn’t be as pushed to make a £85-65 jump.

Weights & Measurements:

  • Pen – 22g
  • Body – 12g
  • Cap – 10g
  • Capped – 133mm
  • Posted – 175mm
  • Uncapped – 120mm

Pros:

  • A pen that is very beautiful
  • Interesting nib choices – 1.5mm is fun to use
  • Feels nice in the hand

Cons:

  • You can get medium, 1.1mm & 1.5mm stubs for cheaper from other manufacturers
  • Price tag is far too ambitious

Handwritten review (Blackstone Golden Wattle ink on Fabriano 85gm/m2 dot):

Manuscript ML1856 fountain pen reviewManuscript ML1856 fountain pen reviewManuscript ML1856 fountain pen review

This pen was provided by Manuscript in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are my own and I received no other compensation for providing this review.

Kaweco Liliput

Kaweco Liliput fountain pen review ink pearl black fabriano paper
  • Where to buy: Cult Pens [Here]
  • Price: £42.00
  • Recommend?: A great pocket pen for a very good price. The nib is amazing to write with. Not for people who dislike a small pen as this has to be posted

Kaweco is a company from Germany that’s been manufacturing pens since 1833. I was actually aware of Kaweco long before I was in the pen hobby; the Kaweco Sport was a pen I was as familiar with as the Montblanc 149. However, due to aesthetic I was put off. The Liliput, in contrast, did catch my eye. Because of my love for other German pens, such as from Pelikan, I was eager to have a play with a Kaweco. This was my chance.

Kaweco Liliput fountain pen review ink pearl black fabriano paper

I knew that the Liliput was a small pen. However, when I opened the package, I think that I truly did underestimate its size because I thought it would be a bit bigger. There’s probably some Freudian remark to be had there. I wasn’t put off by this – I was nevertheless expecting a less than average pen. Thankfully this is a grower (last one. I promise) as Kaweco thought ahead by putting threads on the end of the barrel so that you can screw the cap on to make it a full size pen; by using threads it means the cap stays on firmly.

Kaweco liliput

Kaweco Liliput pocket pen fountain pen review
dat ass

Ensuring the cap stays on by threads does have its drawbacks as well as advantages – it takes longer to unscrew the cap and then screw it back on the end when you write. As an assumption, you will want to use this on occasion for quick writing, but compare the effort of this with a Pilot Capless which uses a simple click mechanism. You also have to make sure the threads are aligned which surprisingly can be somewhat time consuming, and it also means you can’t post using friction.

Kaweco Liliput size comparison small pocket pen pelican sailor twsbi
(left to right): Pelikan M800, Pelikan M100, Kaweco Liliput, Pilot Custom 823, TWSBI Eco

Kaweco Liliput fountain pen size small comparison pilot pelikan twsbi eco 823 custom m800 souveran

Preventing the pens from rolling became too much, so I decided to stick with just a comparison to the Eco uncapped (of which needs to be cleaned it seems!)

This certainly is a pen that needs to be posted. I can write without the cap posted, but it’s very small and gets uncomfortable during long writing sessions. I’m not someone who enjoys posting pens, but because the cap and body seem to look well integrated (though don’t be fooled, it isn’t as flush as, for example, the Lamy 2000 with its piston knob), it doesn’t look as offending when I post. Which is my issue with the Sport that I mentioned in the introduction. Perhaps this is the result of there being no clip which makes it look as though the cap is part of the barrel (I am aware you can take the clip off the Sport, but the cap bulges out and doesn’t look as well integrated).

IMG_8709
Preventing the pens from rolling became too much, so I decided to stick with just a comparison to the Eco uncapped.

I won’t moan about there not being a clip, just highlight that it’s slightly annoying. Thankfully you can buy a clip separately. I refer to this as the “spaghetti argument”: I once had a customer at a restaurant I worked at who asked me why there was “spaghetti in [their] spaghetti bolognese” (thankfully they realised what they had just said after saying it out loud). Being that this is such a small pen, the lack of a clip is a double edged sword. On the one hand it’s annoying because you can’t clip it to a blazer or shirt or even trouser pocket. At the same time I think it makes the pen more compact and makes it more of a ‘pocket pen’. In addition, I feel it accentuates the aesthetic, which I shall get onto next.

Kaweco Liliput fountain pen review the spaghetti argument
Spooble is a word for whatever reason amuses me. I hope to see this definition on Urban Dictionary or something one day.

The Liliput comes in various colours and finishes – perhaps the most iconic recently is the ‘Fireblue’ which is head treated using a blowtorch to give a blue/brown finish. There is also the brass with its multiple finishes, but I was concerned with the brass making my hand smell of metal, which was also the issue with the copper. I opted for the black because together with the black nib, it makes the pen look so stealthy! In my opinion, that’s what a pocket pen should be – stealthy. Anyone reading the handwritten review or looking at the images, yes – using Kaweco Pearl Black ink is intentional.

Kaweco Liliput fountain pen review

The Kaweco Liliput is a cartridge converter pen. A standard international converter is over half the size of this pen; It can only take short international cartridges. I get nothing for plugging this, but I highly recommend the Kaweco ink cartridges – for two reasons. The first is that you might be able to find a selection that comes in this super awesome dispenser which, if done correctly, becomes a weapon for firing cartridges at potential FP converts. The second, and most important, reason is that the cartridges are resistant little buggers. It took me a good week or so to empty one of them (as a student, a full SI converter will last a day, maybe two at a push). Admittedly, this wasn’t constant use but I probably did use it just about daily. I wrote two English literature essays using this pen amongst other things and it still had ink in it by the time I came to write this review (I did change the ink though. I was using Summer Purple which I just can’t recommend enough – it’s beautiful). You cannot use the Kaweco converter with this pen. After reading numerous reviews of it, I wouldn’t recommend it anyway, but because the pen is so short, when screwing on the barrel you will actually decompress the sac and squirt ink out of the pen.

Kaweco cartridge dispenser
The dispenser operates by twisting the bottom. It can be refilled so don’t worry if you get excited while firing the cartridges. As I did. Many times. It can hold up to 8 small international sized cartridges.

Back on to the nib, it is very pleasant. It’s smooth but with a hint of feedback, which is how I like it. However, it is also rather dry, which is not how I like my nibs. The ink probably plays a part in this as well though, as I remember Summer Purple being far drier than Black Pearl. This may be seen as a positive given that this is a pocket pen and may be used on the fly on cheaper paper and perhaps part of the contributing factor as to why the cartridges last so damn long. I know I can adjust the nib myself to make it write wetter, but doing this will void any warranty on any pen, so beware before you try!  I also didn’t want to adjust the nib for the writing samples so that you can see how the nib writes out of the box (or, rather, tin). Kaweco are notorious for having baby’s bottom on some of their wider nibs, so I’d recommend to go for medium/below or if you’re feeling lucky a broad, but probably best to avoid double broad if you’re apprehensive about working on your own nib.

fullsizeoutput_bab

Reverse writing isn’t too fantastic. It becomes drier and it lasts a word or two. There seems to be a surprisingly decent amount of line variation  for a steel nib, which is nice. If you don’t want a stock steel nib then you can buy a replacement gold nib for £100-120 depending on finishes. If you’re buying from a company you might be able to ask for a little discount if you buy the pen with the gold nib and not be sent the steel, but I’m doubtful they’ll be able to do that for logistic reasons or if it’ll even be worth it. Don’t ask don’t get though, eh? The nib units for many Kaweco pens can be changed between models.

fullsizeoutput_baf

I do enjoy this dainty little pen. Do I think it’s essential? Ehh, no. It’s a nice little thing to have, but you’re not going to live every day regretting not purchasing it. For roughly £40 (for this finish) here in the UK, it falls nicely in the price range between starter pens and more expensive ‘pre-gold nib’ pens. £40 can be seen as a little steep but once owning it, I think it certainly earns its value. Don’t rush out to get this pen, but if you have the means and happen to stumble across it, I certainly wouldn’t say you should pass up the opportunity without a second thought!

Pros:

  • Fun dainty product
  • Utilitarian
  • Stealthy

Cons:

  • No clip which may put some off
  • Small so there’s a possibility of it being lost easily

Length:

  • Capped: 96.4mm
  • Uncapped: 87.5mm
  • Posted: 125.7mm

Weight:

  • Body: 6g
  • Cap: 4g
  • Total: 10g
Kaweco Liliput fountain pen review pearl black fountain pen blog black metal
lol I finally managed to sort out my printer scanner.. About damn time.

The Liliput fountain pen and ink cartridges/dispenser were supplied by Kaweco in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are my own.

Pilot Custom 823

  • Where to buy: Outside of UK – [Here] is the link to Goulet Pens
  • Price: $288
  • Recommend?: Without a second thought. I now have two of these pens (one broad (this review) and another medium). I absolutely will get a third probably in a fine nib. I am completely certain in saying this.

This pen was bought by sumgai.

Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen review sumgai
Sumgai: Slang for some guy – a lucky person who goes to auctions/car boot sales and finds pricey pens for cheap prices.

This guy. I found it during one of my eBay pen search marathons. It was found with a few hours left on auction and with no bid activity.

Before getting into the review, I’m going to highlight a few things as they are important to my views on this pen.

I have heard good things about the Pilot 823 and I did my research way before I even found the auction. I discovered that Pilot UK are kind of lacking in terms of availability for products, because this pen is not available for purchase from retailers in the United Kingdom. I always thought this pen was an unnecessary premium.

Let me tell you – this is not unnecessary. It is a fantastic addition to my collection. I bought it a few months ago as of writing and it hasn’t been uninked since I bought it.

Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen review UK England United Kingdom

The Pilot Custom 823 is one of the top of the line pens offered by Pilot. I am not really sure what Pilot’s flagship pen is, but this pen certainly does have a flag at least. The pen has an MRSP of $360 (I think it’s actually retailed at 288), which comes in at about £278 [as of writing, 30/04/2017]. So consider the Pelikan M800 range, in Pound Sterling, anyway. So it is a pricey pen but you certainly get your money’s worth.

The 823 is a vacuum filling pen with a #15 gold nib, which I am told is the same as a #6 size nib that you may be more familiar with. Comparisons to the TWSBI Vac 700 shows that the nibs are the same size.

Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen review UK England United Kingdom Broad Nib

Vacuum fillers are fun little things. Or, rather, big things. They don’t work on the same principle of the vintage Parker Vacumatic fillers, which work on comprising a sac. There are videos and posts out there explaining how to use these filling systems. So I will only gloss over it in this review.

To fill the pen, you unscrew the end cap and pull out the rod. You submerge the nib into the ink (you cannot use cartridges or converters) and push the rod down. This creates a vacuum when the plunger gets to the bottom of the barrel; causing the air to move into the barrel to equalise the pressure. In doing so it draws ink up into the pen. There will be ways to maximise the ink filling capacity, and in that I will recommend watching video demonstrations, as writing out how to do it will be tedious.

Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen review UK England United Kingdom Vacuum fill TWSBI Vac 700

The ink capacity is huge as a result, as you can pretty much use the entire barrel; which you can’t necessarily do with piston pens as the piston mechanism takes up part of the barrel.

One of the things about this filling system that others enjoy is that you can ‘close’ the chamber. This means you don’t have to worry about variations in pressures when, say, flying. You won’t get ink burping if you close the chamber when flying (or, the risk is reduced, so long as you do it correctly).

Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen review UK England United Kingdom piston
Pilot say that you should “unscrew the end cap 2mm to allow for ink flow”. I measured it and it means unscrewing the end cap all the way.

This is a double edged sword, because it means when you are writing in long sessions, you will have to unscrew the end cap so that you can still get ink flow, as you will only be able to use the ink in the chamber. I don’t get annoyed about doing it – it takes 2 seconds and I don’t notice it when writing. If you don’t want to leave it open, you can always unscrew it and refill the chamber if you find it running dry. For example, if you don’t like the aesthetic.

The nib is 14k gold and this thing is smooth. I have a broad nib, so take into consideration that it might be a bit smoother than a fine(r) grade. Being gold, you do get a bit of spring and line variation, but it really isn’t that generous as you do get railroading quite quickly.

Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen review UK England United Kingdom nib

You can reverse write, but it takes the line right down to a fine and it gets quite dry.

Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen review UK England United Kingdom writing sampleAs you can see, the pen is a gusher. The ink that is laid down just looks stunning. The ink of choice is J Herbin Rose Cyclamen and hnnnnng. Fast writing, the feed keeps up impeccably well – take into consideration how wet this nib is; it shows just how well the feed keeps up with writing.

As expected, the writing experience is very nice, which you are almost guaranteed from Pilot.

Something that I didn’t include in the handwritten review is a comparison between the TWSBI Vac 700. Something that made me hesitate buying it (if I could) at retail was that I viewed it just as a TWSBI Vac 700 with a gold nib and a little sleeker (and it is; it’s more business like while I see the Vac as an industrial sort of design – much bulkier and less well integrated between body and section). The 823 is superbly well balanced and well weighted; it isn’t so heavy it’s difficult to write, nor too light that you forget you’re writing. I find that the Vac is a tad more tedious in terms of writing experience. Of course, there’s the gold nib that you have to consider and I find that an unfair comparison. I have never had a problem with a TWSBI nib and I have a fine and 1.1mm stub for my TWSBI Vac and they write perfectly, it’s just that the Pilot is.. Well, a Pilot nib.

The 823 has gold furniture, so that’s another win in my eyes.

Pilot Custom 823 TWSBI Vac 700 comparison review

Both pens measure up near enough the same (the TWSBI is just about longer uncapped) – another similarity is, of course, the vacuum filling mechanism. With the TWSBI you also need to extend the blind cap when writing for long periods. You can, however, disassemble both pens and you can unscrew the piston rod with the TWSBI wrench for the 823.

Pilot Custom 823 TWSBI Vac 700 comparison review

Aesthetically, it’s hard to describe this pen. The design is sort of conservative, but it is ‘turned up a little bit; with the use of transparent/translucent barrels. The 823 looks so much better than a Montblanc 149, which people tend to think of as a ‘business pen’. Both are cigar shaped and have that ‘business’ look to them, but the Montblanc is too boring compared to this.

I bought this pen pen eBay; so I didn’t have a say in the design. But I hope one day to own an amber barrel too. The broad nib is lovely but lately I have been jonesing for finer nibs, but using this nib does make me reconsider that. I also think this is closer to Western broads, if not then it’s only a hairline thinner.

Pilot Custom 823 size comparisons review Pelikan M800 TWSBI Eco Pilot Capless Vanishing PointThe Pilot 823 isn’t a small understated pen. I have large palms but relatively small fingers (to which my girlfriend teases me about..) and I find the pen sits comfortably in my hand, which is great because I hate posting pens.

Pilot Custom 823 size comparisons review Pelikan M800 TWSBI Eco Pilot Capless Vanishing Point

I got the Pilot 823 for a very good price. If you ever have the means to get this, even at full retail, then you will be getting yourself a FANTASTIC pen and I just can’t recommend it enough. If you were to ask me what a ‘next-next level pen’ would be, it’s this.

Weight:

29g overall; 19g body; 10g cap

Length:

149mm capped; 130mm uncapped

Pros:

  • Everything.
  • Large ink capacity
  • Nib writes phenomenally
  • Lovely design
  • Vacuum filling mechanism is fun
  • High price tag but 100% worth it

Cons:

  • Large ink capacity isn’t for everyone
  • Wish to see this in other nib grades such as an EF and also interesting grinds such as cursive italic – though the latter grade is very ambitious to expect

Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen review handwritten reviewPilot Custom 823 fountain pen review UK England United KingdomPilot Custom 823 fountain pen reviewPilot Custom 823 review fountain pen ink United Kingdom United Inkdom

KWZ – Honey

  • Where to buy: Pure Pens [Here]
  • Price: £11.95
  • Bottle size: 60ml
  • Colour: Honey, literally
  • Shading: Yes!!!
  • Sheen: No

Before getting into the review of the particular ink, there are a few things I need to iron out. I will first be discussing retailers and then particular pens and how they react with this ink. Rather lengthy, but if this is the first review of the four posts that you’re reading, I recommend reading it. The first part is more ‘for me’, but the second part could save you a pen!

This review is 2(and a half) of 4(and a half) as part of the United Inkdom meta review. Ink samples have been sent to members of the United Inkdom (myself included). These were supplied by Pure Pens. I have, however, bought KWZ inks in the past from Bureau Direct. I want to include this disclaimer because I do not want to continue with a review if I do not highlight where the source of the ink in the review is from for this series. Grapefruit and Cappuccino are full bottles from Bureau that I have bought myself, while Honey and Menthol Green are samples I was sent specifically for review purposes courtesy of Pure Pens.

Finally – KWZ inks have an infamous reputation of reacting with TWSBI pens – specifically the Eco. I have encountered this problem personally, with Grapefruit in my Eco. I know that Honey has been known to stain the pen barrel and Menthol Green apparently stains converters (we shall see in my review if this is the case with me). I am not sure if this is the same case with other TWSBI models (540, 580, Vac 700(R) or (Vac)Mini) – I am not brave enough to try as I do love my TWSBI pens. The barrel gets scratched and it’s very difficult to move the piston – it is thought that the ink reacts with the silicone grease but I am not sure if this is 100% the reason. It is my understanding that KWZ have been working on changing this, but again, I am not brave enough to try and you never know how old the bottle of ink is that you’ve bought (i.e. before or after any reformulation). I have a Pilot 823 that was shipped to me after the original owner used KWZ ink and there’s no damage to the piston arm or any scratching/clouding on the barrel. I haven’t tested it myself though. I have also been told by other users that the Pelikan piston became slightly harder to use (only slightly so) and after reapplying grease it was find again. Use at your own risk.

Jump to another KWZ ink review: (they will be updated with hyperlinks as the reviews are published and all links open in a new window).

  1. Grapefruit
  2. Honey
  3. Menthol Green
  4. Cappuccino

So. Time for the review!

“Oh honey” is what I was saying to myself when I realised what a fool I was for being so late to this party. KWZ Honey was the ink that took KWZ into the mainstream within the pen community (in my observation at least). Why I didn’t get a full bottle of this sooner is beyond me because I rather adore this ink. As with Lamy Dark Lilac, I finally understand the hype.

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Honey is a thick golden brown substance made by bees and often finds itself mixed into my green tea. This ink only shares one of these characteristics, however.

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If I don’t become a doctor, I know there’s always the chance for me to become an artist. KWZ Honey with honey. And a bee.

KWZ Honey is a saturated golden brown ink that, unlike real honey, is well flowing and will not clog up your pen. I do not own any inks quite like this. I have plenty of browns and the closest in my collection that I could think of was Diamine Autumn Oak, but the comparison was way out as it’s far too orange. Diamine Golden Brown isn’t much of a close match either as it seemed darker and warmer (but I was only going off of comparisons online).

KWZ Ink review wetness
Ink that lubricates the nib and is wet on the page, but has a decent drying time (Clairefontaine Europa paper)
KWZ Honey ink review
Hnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng. The ink looks tasty.

One of the things that attracts people to this ink is how it shades. What I love about the shading is that there’s a lot, but it’s definitely subtle.

KWZ have reformulated Honey (and I am not sure how this affects interaction with TWSBI pens). Konrad, the owner and manufacturer of KWZ ink, says that the colour remains the same, but the scent has gone. I am fortunate to have a very kind friend whom has lent me a sample of the old formulation of Honey. Pure Pens have sent the new formulation to review.

KWZ Honey old formula and new formula comparison

I can certainly tell that the new formulation doesn’t have the KWZ smell. Which is disappointing in my opinion because I really do enjoy the smell

However, while some people have said that they notice differences between the two formulations, I can’t notice any differences.

KWZ Honey old and new ink formulation comparison
Perhaps best represented in this picture – I don’t notice any differences. Old on the left and new on the right.

In my writing sample I did say that the new formula seems lighter, but while reading over it a second time, I can’t even remember where I changed from the pen with the old formula to the pen with the new formula. If you ask me, you won’t lose out on the amazing colour you see online for this ink.

However. I might have to eat my own words when you consider cheaper paper. I do want to point out my hypocrisy – the new formulation does seem to be a little browner/darker when you use it on cheaper paper.

KWZ Honey ink reviewAnd once again, it seems more evident here. The top is the old formula and the bottom is the new formula. Perhaps more red/orange? But rest assured that if you are using the paper that otherwise handles fountain pen ink well, then you’ll see no differences. That’s what I experienced when testing with things such as Rhodia, Clairefontaine and Tomoe River.

I think that KWZ Honey is a truly unique colour and it should feature in everyone’s collection. It isn’t a straight up brown and it isn’t sepia. It is an ink that is easy on the eyes and strays away from characteristics of brown inks which I think is the closest colour family.

The sample for the new formulation of this ink was supplied by Pure Pens, an online retailer based in Wales, UK. Hop on over to their website and snag yourself a bottle for £11.95.

Pros:

  • Beautiful colour – love it!
  • Flows well

Cons:

  • The new formulation is the exact same colour as the old, but I miss the strong smell

All views expressed are my own. Pure Pens supplied the sample and I received no other compensation for doing this review.

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KWZ – Grapefruit

KWZ Grapefruit ink review
  • Where to buy: Bureau Direct [Here]
  • Price: £12.95
  • Bottle size: 60ml
  • Colour: Vibrant orange
  • Shading: Some
  • Sheening: No
  • Recommend?: This is a phenomenal ink. Yes. Absolutely.

Before getting into the review of the particular ink, there are a few things I need to iron out. I will first be discussing retailers and then particular pens and how they react with this ink. Rather lengthy, but if this is the first review of the four posts that you’re reading, I recommend reading it. The first part is more ‘for me’, but the second part could save you a pen!

This review is 1 of 4(and a half) as part of the United Inkdom meta review. Ink samples have been sent to members of the United Inkdom (myself included). These were supplied by Pure Pens. I have, however, bought KWZ inks in the past from Bureau Direct. I want to include this disclaimer because I do not want to continue with a review if I do not highlight where the source of the ink in the review is from for this series. Grapefruit and Cappuccino are full bottles from Bureau that I have bought myself, while Honey and Menthol Green are samples I was sent specifically for review purposes courtesy of Pure Pens.

Finally – KWZ inks have an infamous reputation of reacting with TWSBI pens – specifically the Eco. I have encountered this problem personally, oddly enough with this exact ink, Grapefruit. I know that Honey has been known to stain the pen barrel and Menthol Green apparently stains converters (we shall see in my review if this is the case with me). I am not sure if this is the same case with other TWSBI models (540, 580, Vac 700(R) or (Vac)Mini) – I am not brave enough to try as I do love my TWSBI pens. The barrel gets scratched and it’s very difficult to move the piston – it is thought that the ink reacts with the silicone grease but I am not sure if this is 100% the reason. It is my understanding that KWZ have been working on changing this, but again, I am not brave enough to try and you never know how old the bottle of ink is that you’ve bought (i.e. before or after any reformulation). I have a Pilot 823 that was shipped to me after the original owner used KWZ ink and there’s no damage to the piston arm or any scratching/clouding on the barrel. I haven’t tested it myself though.

Jump to another KWZ ink review: (they will be updated with hyperlinks as the reviews are published)

  1. Grapefruit
  2. Honey
  3. Menthol Green
  4. Cappuccino

So. Time for the review!

KWZ is an ink manufacturer that hit the mainstream within our community around mid-2016. The ink that everyone was talking about? Honey. However, when KWZ finally came to the UK in the autumnal months of 2016, I dipped my toes into the KWZ ink pool with Grapefruit. Mainly because at the London Pen Show, where I bought the ink, Honey was already gone.

KWZ Grapefruit ink review

So what made me go for Grapefruit? Looking at the ink sheet showing all the various inks at the pen show, one colour bounced off the page. In that moment I realised that I didn’t have an orange ink in my collection.

I also like grapefruit.

KWZ Grapefruit fountain pen ink review honey dragon's napalm
Ink on Clairefontaine Europa paper. The ink is very very wet and saturated, but it does dry in a reasonable time frame.

When I got home I was quick to ink a pen up with it. However, when I opened the bottle, there was a distinct smell of thyme. I messaged the London pen club group chat and others had the same smell. A quick Internet search told us that this smell, for KWZ, is normal. This isn’t an issue for me as I’m rather fond of the smell. I like it even more when the ink has been in the pen for a few days as it then smells of vanilla. You can even smell it on the page. One issue people may have is that the smell does linger on the nib for a little while. It’s no different to the scented J Herbin inks, if you are familiar with those. Though, I have noticed that the smell remains on the page for longer.

On copy paper, the ink performs well. There’s show through, but the bleed through is minimal and only really seen on the second swab. The drying time is reduced considerably (as you’ve seen in the images above, the ink is super wet) and it becomes very dry on this paper.

KWZ Grapefruit copy paper ink review

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Ink Swab
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Some bleed through on copy paper, but only on a second pass.

KWZ Grapefruit is a bold and vibrant orange. I would say that ‘grapefruit’ is a very appropriate name. The colour jumps off the page but is not hard on the eyes. It is darker and more striking than Noodler’s Dragon’s Napalm. It’s also more saturated than Diamine Autumn Oak and Noodler’s Apache Sunset. It doesn’t, however, shade as much (then again, what does?!)

KWZ Grapefruit Noodler's Dragon's Napalm ink review comparison

Orange inks may not always have practical applications and they are more ‘fun’ inks than business inks. Perhaps a nice alternative to a red for annotations and such? But if you are looking for an orange ink then I would highly recommend KWZ Grapefruit.

This particular bottle was purchased with my own funds at the London Pen Show, 2016, from Bureau Direct at a price of £12.95. KWZ’s Iron Gall inks can be purchased for £16.95

Pros:

  • Beautiful and vibrant ink
  • Flows well and lubricates the nib well
  • Smells nice
  • I find that orange inks can be a little boring, but this certainly isn’t

Cons:

  • The smell of the ink might be concerning to some people
  • Orange isn’t the most practical

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Wing Sung 235 Fountain Pen Review

Wing Sung fountain pen nib
  • Where to buy: eBay
  • Price: £3.99 (+free shipping)
  • Recommend?: If you want the aesthetic of an old-school Sheaffer nib but for a cheap price, this if for you. An extremely lightweight pen so stay away if you’re someone for heavy pens.

Sometimes when I am bored and should be doing something useful with my time, I will end up on eBay searching to find a new addition to my collection. This was one of those purchases.

 

I don’t know a whole lot about the brand Wing Sung. I do know a bit in the sense that they are from China and sell relatively cheap pens. In my opinion, they are a more up-market Jinhao.

The pen writes very well. Initially I did have to flush the pen out because I was getting arg starts if I didn’t write with it for about 30 minutes. I didn’t spend £100+ or anything excessive so I’m not really too annoyed about having to do that. After doing it, the pen wrote very well. It’s nice and wet, has no flow issues and it keeps up with quick writing very well. The nib does make quote a bit of noise, but I wouldn’t say that it’s scratchy. I also like the feedback that it provides, but it still has nothing on what I get from my Pelikan M620.

The nib is, however, quite firm – even when taking into account that it’s a steel nib. When trying to squeeze out any line variation, it’s difficult for the feed to keep up.

 

The nib has an interesting design – it is very Sheaffer-esque. I think it is beautiful, though, I do not appreciate the huge ‘MADE IN CHINA’ stamp I think that could have been left out, or placed on the cap band.

Wing Sung fountain pen nib
I’m sure Wing Sung were going for a heart shape at the top of the nib, but it looks more like a butt..

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I do enjoy how the nib wraps around

The pen is incredibly light. I’ve no idea what this material is, but it reminds me of something like carbon fibre. If this pen cost more and was marketed in such a way then I would be fooled.But it is very sturdy; I have a weird tendency to hold the cap in my right hand while I write and dig my thumb into the ring opening. I haven’t noticed any disfiguration.

The converter is an aerometric type converter and I have discovered with all Wing Sung pens (a grand total of 3) I have used that they are all equipped with this style converter and are impossible to remove. This is no exception. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about losing a converter, but on the other hand, if you need a spare converter to hand and this is your only pen un-inked then you’re out of luck it seems.

As far as I am aware, the 235 only comes in the rose gold finish. In the handwritten review (which you can always find at the bottom of the typed review) I say that it looks more like a typical gold colour. I compared it to another gold pen and I did indeed see a pinky colour to it. The 233 model appears to be a somewhat similar design but in black. These seem to be your only two options.

Of course – I am no stranger to gaudy pens.

Wing Sung 235 Jinhao 1200 fountain pen review

However, unlike the Jinhao 1200, you can actually feel the ridges, while on the 1200 there seems to be some overlay that means you can’t feel them.

All in all, I don’t think that it’s a bad investment for a nib that writes well and looks nice, a pen that is nicely sized and can be something to mess around with because it’s cheap. Certainly, this pen will not be like the others that you have in your collection.

And if it is – we need to get talking!

Diamine Hope Pink on Clairefontaine Europa paper

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Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Beautiful nib design
  • Writes well

Cons:

  • Aerometric converter that you cannot remove – would rather the option to use my own converters
  • Lightweight (may be a pro for some)