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.

Silvine Original Notebooks

Silvine Originals Pocket Memo Note Exercise Project full collection review
  • Where to buy: Silvine [Here]
  • Price: Varies depending on what notebook you want
  • Page count: “
  • Paper: Natural White Wave
  • Paper weight: 90gsm
  • Binding: Stitched (& glued in the case of Project)
  • Recommend?: Each notebook has its own purpose. They all do well in their own particular niche. Considering the nostalgia and personality that you get from looking at the notebooks and from writing, I would definitely recommend these notebooks.

Silvine Originals Pocket Memo Note Exercise Project full collection review

When I opened the package from Silvine, I had an amazing sense of nostalgia. I remembered seeing loads of these notebooks around my nanna’s house when she would look after me as a child. I think “Silvine Original” is a fantastic name, because they definitely do seem to pay homage to the original Silvine notebooks but with new fantastic designs, applications and of course – paper quality.

There’s a real personal touch with these notebooks with a hand stitched spine. I’ve had these notebooks for a couple of weeks now and I haven’t experienced any problems with them coming undone or anything like that. I would take complete confidence because they haven’t failed me during my time using and testing them. The stitching is done with a very dark blue thread, which gives a striking aesthetic that doesn’t detract from the design of the notebook. It also works very nicely with the black bold logos on the front.

Silvine is a British company that has been around for over 175 years. They explain how they feel that “British attitude has been one of enthusiasm, innovation and endeavour.” They’re certainly working with that ethos even in 2017; they’re a British company and “proud of it”.

Silvine originals notebook review pocket memo exercise note project
“British made”

On the outside, you see the iconic red cover that has been colour matched “to the 1960s bold red” cover. The same one that you’d be used to seeing in the Post Office, your local shop or, hey, sitting on your grandfather’s coffee table (my mother has also expressed her nostalgia when she saw them for the first time on our own coffee table). The cover is 300gsm that has a very interesting texture to it; I’d describe it as ribbed and feels very nice to the touch. The covers do well. I had one of them in my back pocket for a few days just to wear and tear it and it held up very well. There’s some bending as a result of being in the pocket, which is going to happen anyway – it’s not a hardcover. There’s no tearing or damage. It’s what I would call personality or individuality.

Going onto the inside, you’re greeted with 90gsm Natural White Wave writing paper,  which provides some feedback on your nib. That’s something that I really love about this paper. I like a smooth writing experience, but I don’t want it so smooth that you forget you’re writing (of course, part of this is the result of the nib itself as well as the lubrication of the nib as a result of the ink). I know I made reference to this in the above paragraph, but I think it adds ‘personality’ to the writing experience. It feels more personal and more enjoyable. The textured paper really hits the spot for me. It’s white paper, but it’s described as having an “off white hue”. It’s not ice white like something you’d see in some Clairefontaine or Rhodia notebooks, which achieves a vintage look to the paper and I rather admire that. On the topic of the paper, I noticed across all the notebooks that the paper quality was very good. I mentioned it’s 90gsm, so that’s what you would expect. On some notebooks (such as the Pocket) I experienced ghosting. I’m not going to moan about that, because I do enjoy ghosting to an extent, but I didn’t experience any feathering or bleed through. I was able to write on both sides of the paper.

There are a few more things that go for every notebook, so instead of repeating the same thing, I’m going to lay them out here. All the pages are perforated, which means you have the option of tearing them out if you need. I had no trouble tearing out pages that weren’t necessarily the first page in the notebook. The pages are held in very well; I would not be worried about turning the page and tearing it out by mistake. Furthermore, the perforations aren’t very obvious. So if you do want to keep every page in tact, I certainly wouldn’t worry about them falling out. Another thing I experienced across all notebooks was that the paper performed very well.

I received a large collection of notebooks. To make it easy to sort through them within the review, I’m going to talk about them individually from smallest to largest. I will state the name of the book, the size dimensions and the number of pages. The pages are the individual sheets, so you may want to double the number in your mind for the number of writable pages.Because let me assure you, these pages can take some beating. You can definitely write on the back of them. I will also include the price.

Pocket – 110x72mm, 40 pages £6.50

Silvine Original pocket notebook review

The pocket size is a dainty little thing and you can buy them in packs of 3 (because three is a magic number). This is smaller than the usual “pocket notebooks” such as Field Notes, and I think the purpose of this is because it’s designed more for a “shirt pocket”, as quoted by Silvine. The pages are plain, which I think are essential for something as small as this. It gives you more freedom on the page and allows you to scribble things down on the fly easily and quickly without feeling restricted, allowing you to easily transfer thoughts to paper.

I wrote the writing in the image below at work (it did indeed become a very busy day..) and it shows a little bit of ghosting but nothing drastic. I’m someone who rather enjoys a bit of ghosting through the paper. There’s no bleed through that I experienced, however.

I mentioned in an earlier paragraph about carrying this notebook in my back pocket for a few days. It held up incredibly well. There was some bending, which was expected, but there was no damage to the cover. As much as I love the Pocket, it sadly won’t knock out my daily carry pocket sized notebook.

Silvine Original pocket notebook review field notes
Comparison between the Pocket and a Field Notes ‘pocket notebook’

Memo – 159x97mm, 52 pages £4.50

Silvine Memo notebook review

The Memo size is the next size up. It’s more rectangular than the pocket size, and larger than your normal pocket notebook. Silvine say that the Memo “stands true to the proportions of the classic Memo book” and is “still the perfect size to keep with you all day.” Which I agree with. I love my pocket notebooks, but sometimes you need something a little bit extra – Memo achieves this. This isn’t a pocket notebook and, as with the Pocket, it won’t be knocking out my daily pocket notebook carry. But this is something that would be brilliant to throw in a backpack/satchel/messenger bag/whatever people are carrying these days.

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I promise that this wasn’t intentional, but Silvine state that the Memo “makes making notes, scribbling ideas or just taking down a phone number a beautiful thing.” This was something for work. The training I was doing, believe me, a nice notebook to write in was something that was well needed.. If “scoopy biscuits” is anything of an indicator..

With the faint blue lines, plentiful number of pages and an absolutely perfect size, the Memo will surely be a welcomed companion to your bag. This is probably my favourite of the collection, followed extremely closely by the Exercise (ohhh, the anticipation).

Note – 190x125mm, 52 pages £6.00

Silvine Originals note notebook review

The Note is a perfect companion to the Pocket. It has the same dimensions as the Pocket size; it also contains plain paper (but more pages than the Pocket). Being so complimentary, it means you are able to expand on your ideas you had created in Pocket and transfer them to Note.

Silvine Note notebook review
Do you like how punny I am? The birb reference is me testing out a new Pelikan I received.
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Wanted to highlight how the paper handles ink. This is a very wet ink and there’s no feathering or anything of the sort. Actually get some very nice shading [Noodler’s Saguaro Wine]

Exercise – 230x162mm, 52 pages £7.00

Silvine Originals exercise notebook review

School’s out (well.. Almost) but these notebooks are in! It was nostalgic writing in these because I remember using Silvine (and Rhino) exercise books during primary school 8 years ago. Opening the cover to see the classic blue lines with a red margin certainly put a smile on my face. Writing in this drives home the vintage or retro feel. Sadly I missed the boat when it came to using fountain pens in school (don’t worry – my classmates and I still found ways to get ink in our mouths and down our hands.. I’m ashamed to report there were more cases of the former than the later) but I did put a Pilot G2 to the paper, which is what we used in class and mmmmm baby. Along with the Memo, I think this is my favourite of the Silvine bundle. I would wish for more pages, but then I would be concerned what it would do to the binding, so I think it’s worth the trade off. Just have to stock up, ey?!

Silvine Originals exercise notebook review
Took the time to do exercise questions during revision. I present the answers to the questions on d-block elements..

Project – 305x200mm, 96 pages £14.00

Silvine Originals project notebook review

This is the big boy. It can be thought of as a very big, with far more pages, Sciences book from the Field Notes Arts & Sciences edition. Grid on the right and plain paper on the left. This is a notebook for your projects and, as Silvine put it, “less of a book, more of a locker of inspiration,” which I think sums it up rather nicely. With plain paper on one side you can include illustrations, pictures/photographs, designs, whatever and then annotate and write your thoughts on the right hand side. For me? Well I used it as an excuse to write out phases in bacterial growth aaaaand something a little less academic with a random colouring in of the boxes.

Silvine originalsfullsizeoutput_c5ffullsizeoutput_c60

The only negative thing I have to say about these notebooks is about this one in particular. The Project isn’t hand stitched, but instead glued. There was some slight manipulation of the spine which meant that for the first few pages it was hard to lay it flat. While this isn’t a result of the way it was bound (i.e. glued) because I was able to lay it flat easily and comfortably once I found myself further in, but as a result of the quality control.

IMG_9161

In conclusion, I think that we have a fantastic array of notebooks. Other than perhaps a gap between the Pocket and Memo for a size of the pocket notebooks we’re used to. My favourite size has to be the Memo – it’s large enough to use for a range of applications but small enough to be very convenient. Exercise, as I said, comes a very close second. It’s traditional to the old school (ha) notebooks that I used at primary school. The paper is extremely well performing and provides a lovely writing experience. The off-white hue gives it a very interesting contrast which, given the story, I think works very well for this collection.

I would like to thank Silvine for the opportunity to review these notebooks. I was sent them in exchange for an honest review. As a result, all views expressed are my own.

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.

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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.

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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)