KWZ – Honey

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.


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.

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.

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

Handwritten review:


Wing Sung 235 Fountain Pen Review

Wing Sung fountain pen nib

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..


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


Namisu Studio Ebonite

Writing this review is as much a tease for me as it is for you – because this pen is still on pre-order (at time of writing, 11.02.2017). Pens with the steel nibs will be shipping out on the 15th February, with the titanium nibs shipping out on the 15th March. I know this because after only 10 minutes of using this pen I searched it up. So that’s my first impression over quickly, right?! NB – At time of publication the steel nibs will be shipping but the titanium won’t be shipped for another 4 weeks exactly.

In this review I won’t consider the nib because I’ve been fortunate to try out a range of nibs (including a titanium!) which I shall include in a separate review which you can find here

Clairefontaine – Europa A4 Notebook with Lamy Dark Lilac

The design, to me, is very appealing. I enjoy the tapered design and the lack of a clip really accentuates the sleek aesthetic of the pen. The design is certainly, in my opinion at least, inspired by the Nakaya Piccolo. So.. What makes this different from the Jinhao 599 vs the Lamy Safari or the Hero 616 vs the Parker 51? Well. That’s a good question. The materials that they use for their pens are exceptionally better than that used by the typical Chinese plastic copies inspired designs (in this particular pen they highlight that the barrel is ebonite, while other bodies are (sandblasted) titanium and aluminium) that we often see, but is that an exemption? Now, I’m not saying this is a direct copy but it is very difficult to ignore the similarities between the two pens. This presents me with a difficult situation, but I feel it’s important to highlight; I am after all giving impartial reviews here. To be honest, I’m unsure how I feel. The other models in their lineup aren’t similar to other pens, that I can tell anyway. There are only a certain number of pens you can design with a tapered design. If not similar to the Nakaya, I’m sure there may well be another pen design I’d be questioning the similarities between. Benefit of the doubt? I’ll leave that one up to you because personally I struggle coming to a definite yes or no. Especially as the conical finials seem all too familiar, which is something that could have been avoided. Does it ruin the pen and the experience, however? No way.

Getting it to stop rolling was an issue..

Namisu say that the Studio Ebonite is a “writing instrument that embodies the contrast between vintage materials and the latest technology.” They can achieve this by using ‘old school’ ebonite – a “rubber-based material originally used in the early 20th century for fountain pens, and later abandoned by most manufacturers in favour of various plastics, which were easier to work” and the titanium finials to give it the modern, technological look. I appreciate the idea, unfortunately I’m not sure if “titanium finials” are the pinnacle of latest technology. Using rudimentary materials like ebonite is something I quite enjoy as it shows this isn’t just ‘another pen’. It’s a nod and appreciation to the manufacturers and materials that got this hobby to where it is. Also, being made of ebonite, it gives the user an advantage where they might find the metal pens in their lineup difficult to use for extensive writing sessions.

The colour scheme is black with grey titanium furnishings. I’d say it lends itself closer towards silver than a ruthenium/grey type colour. I’m someone who prefers gold furnishings, but I am glad Namisu went with this colour scheme because gold would be far too ostentatious for this sleek pen. Even if there was a gold version, I’d still go for this colour.

The pen is a comfortable size. Uncapped it comes in at 12.8cm (a fraction over 5 inches) and capped it’s 14.0cm (a fraction over 5 and a half inches). I should also mention, and it is specified on Namisu’s website, this pen is not designed to be used posted. As someone who tries their hardest not to post pens, this is no issue. However, if you feel the need to post the pen then this is not for you as it’s “not designed to be posted”. The only posting I shall be doing with this pen is when I reluctantly give it to the Post Office.

For size comparison, it is only just about smaller than the Pelikan M600 uncapped, but larger in girth. I’d compare it to that of the TWSBI Vac 700 in that respect.

Namisu Studio Ebonite Size Pelikan TWSBI

Namisu Studio Ebonite Size

So. Pricing. On the product page, the pen can be preordered with a steel nib for £105.00 + £3.50 postage and packaging sent by Royal Mail tracked 48hr. I’m surprised that it isn’t free P&P, seeing as some retailers will do free shipping over [x] amount, which is usually around £20. That’s for UK shipping. Unfortunately I don’t know any American, Canadian or German addresses that I could try, but I did try my girlfriend’s address in the Netherlands, which gives a P&P of £7.50 for international 3-7 days tracked. For an additional £35 you can get the titanium nib. If you think about it, most manufacturers will charge a £70-100 premium for a gold nib upgrade. Considering how unique (in comparison to gold anyway) this material is, I’m surprised it’s half the price. £140 might seem a lot, but when £35 is a titanium nib upgrade (which you will read in my review of said nib, is a lot of fun and definitely worth it), is it really that much to pay? This is getting into the nibs a little, but the steel will only come in extra fine, medium & broad; there’s no fine option. Whereas the titanium nibs only come in medium and broad. The nibs are Bock, so I’m sure it’s an easy switch if you want a fine titanium instead of a broad or medium. Also means if you go for the £105 option, you’ll have a spare (#6) Bock nib unit.

So who’s this pen for? Well, others within the United Inkdom review community will know that I like to take the pens to school and out and about to test the pen thoroughly before I write reviews. My school notes are, in a way, the basis of my reviews. When taking this to school, I went to slip it into my front blazer pocket and.. Whoops. No clip. This isn’t a complaint, because I know it doesn’t come with a clip: you buy it knowing that. So I put it in my pen case, which wasn’t an issue. So if you intend on this being your sole carry, make sure you have an alternative case. This is best lived, if not in a pen case, in a pen pot because I’ve had it before where the pen almost rolled off my desk… Whoops! Of course, if you can get away with not needing a clip then it’s great for every day use because of its sleek profile.

To conclude – do I recommend this pen? Absolutely. I would have no issues recommending this to someone if they asked me what pen they should get for £100+ — so long as they are okay with no clip. That’s the only snag I think people may run into. If you can get past it, you’ll enjoy this pen I am sure.

Super 5 Fountain Pen (Delhi)

Orange is the new black? Ahh, c’mon. You knew it was coming. After my Blue Sea review I feel pressured to keep up the puns.. Anyway, while I’m not a fan of the show, I am definitely a fan of this pen.

Super 5 (which you can find hier (German website, but easy to navigate)) name their inks (all of which I shall review in the future) and their pens after geographical locations:

  • Delhi – Orange
  • Darmstadt – Black
  • Australia – Burgundy
  • Arctic – White (pen only)
  • Atlantic – Blue
  • Dublin – Green
  • Frankfurt – Grey (ink only)

And the pens are identified in rather peculiar ways, if you ask me. The one I was sent is the Super 5 ‘B’. It’s said to be a calligraphic 1.5mm nib. It’s not. It can be found on their website for €24.90 (£21.33 at time of writing (30th Jan 2017)) which I personally find rather steep. Throw in a couple more quid and you can get yourself a TWSBI Eco. I like this pen, but I prefer the Eco.

When I first opened the package containing this pen, which was kindly sent to me by a fellow United Inkdom reviewer, whom received the pen from Super 5 themselves for review purposes, I was a little taken back and my first impression wasn’t entirely positive. But never judge a book by its cover! I promptly inked it up by syringe filling the small standard international cartridge that is supplied with the pen (as the converter you have to pay for separately) with the Super 5 Delhi ink and put the nib to the paper and my first negative impressions had disappeared.

Super 5 fountain pen

The nib is smooth. Really smooth. The sort of smooth that if you were in the bar with your significant other, they would be going home with this nib instead; it’s that smooth. Of course, part of this is attributed to the fact that it’s a broad nib, which are generally smoother than finer nib grades due to the way that they are made in order to be broad. If you wanted a smooth nib but with a little feedback, this is not for you. I am not really sure where the nibs are sourced; whether they are made in house (which personally I doubt but I may be wrong) or if they’re from an outside company. They are certainly not Bock or JoWo nibs.

The nib is nice and wet, though in the writing sample below, it might not seem that way but I’d put it down due to the ink being fairly dry, because the line it lays down initially is very wet indeed.


Reverse writing gives you a line that’s very similar to the Super 5 rollerball (which I will also review). It’s doable but not very pleasant to write with. It also runs dry very quickly. In terms of line variation, it’s already quite a broad nib and there’s not much give to it; it’s quite stiff. Can squeeze some out, though.

fullsizeoutput_6d6The final point on the nib is that the nib keeps up with the wet flow when fast writing. I cannot work out what I wrote, it was a while ago. I suppose I was practising my doctor’s handwriting.

“Fast writing the feed keeps up well. A..” I give up.

The section is larger (if you read my handwritten review then I apologise for going in a complete reverse order..) than others and made of plastic, so it isn’t slippy and is also comfortable as you can hold a little higher up the section – if that’s what you usually want to do.


It is clear to see that the pen is strikingly orange. This is what put me off; it’s a plastic pen and it’s bright orange. I’m no stranger to gaudy and ostentatious pens, but for some reason on first inspection this didn’t do it for me. After pairing it with the Delhi ink, I sort of became to appreciate it and I do like the contrast with the black clip. There are other colours, however, so if orange is a deal breaker then you can always go for white, black, blue, green or red. While it is plastic, I would be careful converting it to an eyedropper.


Which segues nicely — for some unknown reason to me, the blind cap screws off. I have no clue what purpose this serves. But this means there are additional threads that you will need to be careful with if you do convert it into an eyedropper. As well as the blind cap, the finial also unscrews. Again. Do not know why, because even if you remove the clip which is held in place by the finial, the piece of plastic doesn’t screw on all the way and so leaves a gap in between the finial and the cap body itself. For pedantic people like myself, this is a no go. In addition to this, every single thread is squeaky. Including the one to get to the converter/cartridge.

fullsizeoutput_6d9I really don’t understand why you can do this.

All in all, I’m not disappointed by the pen – quite confused by it, admittedly, and I’d be hesitant to pay the price listed, but it writes and it’s a nice experience. Quality control could be a little better though.

Robert Oster – Deep Sea

I’m on my third cup of coffee. I feel I’m coming down with a cold or something and I’m very very tired. One thing I am not tired of, however, are these Robert Oster inks. Now, a disclaimer – for me, Blue Sea wins between these two inks. I’m very enthusiastic to get a few more of the Oster inks, particularly the blue ones, just to compare them. But this review is of Deep Sea. Yep. It has sea in the name, but I don’t have the brain power right now to think of puns so you’re spared.

Prior to getting these inks from iZods to review, I actually had a small sample of this ink from a pen meet-up I go to each month in London. It was about the time that I first had a sample of Pelikan’s Aquamarine and this is what started my love for teal inks. Deep Sea pushed me ‘deeper’. In comparison to Pelikan’s ink, Deep Sea is a darker teal – much darker. I did get one comment regarding my previous post from someone saying that I should include more comparisons between inks, so I took four swatches of inks I thought were rather similar, though the fourth one is a little far stretched to be ‘similar’. Being a dark ink, I thought it would be useful to highlight it’s more true-teal than lending itself towards green.

fullsizeoutput_670In my opinion, the ink sits very nicely between Blue Suede and Aquamarine (well, it sits above and left of respectively, but you get the idea). I included Ebony Green (which I have also reviewed) because it’s a very dark green, and this is a dark teal. When writing with it I was questioning whether it was more green, but this highlights it quite nicely and demonstrates that this is not the case.

Something to point out – of all the inks, when doing the swatches it was Deep Sea which was the wettest. No surprises, Aquamarine was the driest. Noticeably wetter than Private Reserve, but not excessively. I think noticeably is the best word to describe it.

In terms of behaviour, I was very impressed. The ink flows well (it lubricates very nicely) and is easy to clean out of pens. I think we still see Oster inks as the ‘new kid on the block’ (and not for a bad reason, but because the inks have made such a sudden impact on our community) and I would ordinarily be a little cautious of putting them in, say, my Pelikan M800 which is one of my favourite pens if it’s a new brand (the best example would probably be KWZ). From my experience everything has been fine.

Like inside the pen, the ink is also well behaved on paper. On Rhodia it appears a little darker than normal, depending on how you catch it in the light (mainly with ‘ink’, I can definitely remember why I wold consider this as a green-black/teal)

fullsizeoutput_66fAs I said, it looks similar to Blue Suede but a darker shade

fullsizeoutput_671img_5436On cheaper paper the ink actually appears lighter, which I find interesting. Can see showthrough, but bleedthrough is only really where I’ve pushed down when trying to get line variation.

img_5437To sum it up, while I do enjoy this ink, I don’t adore it like I do Blue Suede or Blue Sea for example. I do like it, but if I had to use one ink colour for the rest of my life, I would easily score this one out of the running if I was honest. Which I am because I received these inks in return for an honest review. Wasn’t that a nice segue? All views expressed are my own. Head on over to iZods to pick up a bottle, or two.. Or three of Robert Oster Signature inks!

Robert Oster – Blue Sea

Play along with me. Buy a bottle of ink for every dreadful sea related pun I make. The first bottle is a given because after reading, I can assure you’ll want to buy this ink:

Inside my TWSBI Eco. Ohhhh, I’m such a tease.

Apparently this year, the famous Blue Monday (which typically occurs on the third Monday in the month of January) was the worst of the years since the formula was devised in 2005 and it was indeed something I felt. But it wasn’t bad – it was enjoyable. Why? Because I was using a blue ink – an AMAZING blue ink. So it was (good) Blue Monday for me this year. I’m going to tell you why this ink is absolutely phenomenal and I hope you’ll sea why (I’m so glad I got that out of my system).

For the United Inkdom meta review, I was sent the ‘sea’ Robert Oster signature inks. I have been fortunate enough to try out Deep Sea before, just as my teal ink fascination (perhaps that’s an understatement? Obsession?) was beginning to flourish. Along with the hype around Fire and Ice in the bloggersphere, it’s pretty safe to say that I went in with high expectations, especially as this ink is also a blue (unfortunately I was unable to get my hands on any Fire and Ice before writing this review, but from what I can tell, Sea Blue is slightly lighter in shade). Despite these expectations, I was still utterly blown away. While I have never used or seen Fire and Ice in person, I would go out and say that this is the ink that people should be going crazy over. Robert_Oster_Blue_Sea_Ink_ReviewFire is hot, sure. But this ink is hotter.

I’m a blue guy. I think the number of blues I have in my collection outnumber other inks, though I’m not certain on this. I have 74 inks at last count. So I like to think I know my blues, and this ink has certainly made an impression on me. However, I think what makes me think it’s a better shade than Blue Ice is because I’m not one for sheen. Sure, it’s fun and interesting and cool, but it isn’t a necessity for me. Another colour, Majestic Blue has very intense red sheen as well. So if you wanted a sheening blue, perhaps try those two. In terms of shading, I wouldn’t characterise it as  Noodler’s Apache Sunset, Mont Blanc Irish Green or Diamine Autumn Oak (to name a few..) but it isn’t Diamine Orange which is incredibly flat and two dimensional. I adore conservative shading inks, so this is definitely one of the reasons I enjoy this ink.

Revision and also something for an ink review. Two birds with one stone. Electrode potentials, for anyone interested..? Written in a Rhodia A4 notebook on Clairefontaine paper.
Rhodia A5 stapled notebook

In terms of shade, I would say that Deep Sea is definitely on the lighter side, but I wouldn’t call it a turquoise. For point of reference, it’s darker than Diamine Sapphire Blue. While I’ve been called out once before (namely as a result of my pedantic stance on the nomenclature of the Private Reserve inks I was reviewing a while back) so I hope I don’t rock the boat here, but I may as well mention that in comparison to other ‘sea’ inks, like Diamine Sargasso Sea, it is much much lighter, but more of a true blue in comparison to that of the greenish-blue, Caribbean Sea by Caran d’Ache. That’s my naming convention plug done for the review. Smooth sailing from here on out (I’m not even sorry). I would say it’s a more saturated, less.. Uh.. Paint like ink than Britannia’s Blue Waves. I never really realised how many sea-themed inks there are.

In between studies, I work as a part time waiter and manager at a restaurant. To keep things brief, we had a table that was rather rude and I had to write a statement to my Area Manager about the situation. The pen I used was inked up with this ink and I just took some copy paper from the restaurant office and went to town. The ink performed very very well. Unfortunately I don’t have any writing samples of this, but there was some bleed through, as well as in the manager’s diary (just a standard A4 diary from WH Smiths). But on other paper like Rhodia, Clairefontaine and Leuchtturm A5 it’s brilliantly behaved. No bleed/show through – as expected.

This is an ink that will beat any sinking feeling that you’ll experience on days like Blue Monday, so sail on over to iZods and pick up a bottle or two.. Or, uh, how many dreadful puns was that?

Disclaimer: I was sent these samples from iZods in exchange for an honest and fair review. All views expressed are my own and I did not receive any compensation as part of my review.

Darkstar Collection Notebooks

I honestly find it astonishing that Darkstar has only been around for a little over a year. Starting at the end of 2015, Darkstar have constantly been making their handmade UK notebooks better and better and better. Nothing’s perfect, and unfortunately I can’t say they’re Leuchtturm A5 (I say A5 for a reason, which I will explain below) or Rhodia level yet, but I can, without a doubt, see them heading that direction and taking the UK market by storm and I hope one day to see them being a major player within the international market challenging the names I just mentioned. Based in the United Kingdom, Darkstar handcraft their notebooks in a way that I can best describe as “personal”. I’m going to throw this out there so you can skip this part if you want – I’m going to talk a little about the business and why I appreciate them. Not about the notebooks themselves, I’ll start that after the next paragraph:

I first came across Darkstar on their Instagram page a while back. What gravitated me towards them was their interaction with their followers/customer base. One of the things that made me jump down this rabbit hole within the fountain pen(/stationary) hobby was the community. Darkstar do not let go of this, and that’s one of the things that makes using these notebooks so pleasurable; it’s all something that adds to the writing experience and that’s why I think it’s important to mention within the review because that’s something that I do not get when I am using a Leuchtturm notebook. They have nice colours, sure. Contents and individually numbered pages, that’s cool. But were the notebooks handmade? Do you know what went into the notebooks? These aren’t Mont Blanc pen notebooks for the businessmen/women, they’re custom made hand turned pen notebooks for the individual.

As I said, the company has been constantly improving their notebooks, and the version they’re at now still isn’t them at the top of their game. I did run into one or two issues with the notebooks. One being that the pages are rather prone to tearing out easily. The only other issue I ran into was the paper quality. While not disastrous, again, not Rhodia level (though, I would say better than the Leuchtturm Master, which is why I say it’s not disastrous; just not perfect).

The two notebooks I received came in a beige colour (akin to the kraft Field Notes) and a sleek matte black notebook with an interesting cover. It feels sort of like rubber but.. Not.. I honestly have no idea how to explain it. But from certain angles it looks like a regular notebook without the branding that you see on the beige notebook. If you want stealthy notebook, this is the one that you want.

When using fountain pens, I love being able to feel the ink. On this paper, I find that rather difficult as the characteristics of the ink is reduced and the line feels almost two dimensional, rather than three with things such as shading. Of course, no doubt this will be improved in further versions.

In terms of the tone, I wouldn’t call it white like Clairefontaine (which is what I personally prefer), but very very very slightly creamier. This might be part of the reason why I say the writing feels 2-D, because that’s what I feel when I write in Leuchtturm. I won’t say anything negative about the tone of paper, because that’s a purely personal preference.

fullsizeoutput_572Also works well with rollerballs; I have noticed a lot of feathering and bleed through on my Retro 51 when using it even in the Leuchtturm A5. The paper makes the ink behave very well. I feel that Darkstar have been able to tame the ink with their paper (which is certainly the priority), but a slightly glossier paper would do me. Again, this is personal preference. The dry time is still very very good. Not as long as Rhodia, but it doesn’t dry immediately. Some of you may know that I am left handed and I write hooked. By the time my hand runs over the line, it has dried fine.

In terms of the quality of the paper, it performs very well. It even handles my (admittedly terrible) flexing in a vintage Parker rather nicely. No bleedthrough, but I do notice ghosting. Again, a personal preference but I don’t mind ghosting as I think it adds character to what I’m writing. On closer inspection, I do notice that there’s feathering on my Sheaffer italic nib. Ever so slight, but it’s there. When using my Jinhao 1200, which is an absolute gusher, I don’t get that, so perhaps it’s partly to do with that particular nib rather than the paper.

I also notice that the quality control of their paper is a little hit or miss. However, when I say this, these notebooks were testers. I will not say whether you should or should not give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of quality control (including the binding issues, though it was an issue previously on their earlier releases) but something that I wanted to make you aware of. The individual sheets aren’t all flush and some pages in the black notebook are sometimes printed without the dot layout and just plain. I will say though, the notebooks are no strangers to laying flat!

Notebook laying flat!
As you can see, the left side is printed plain and the right side is dotted.

Binding issue.img_5020

All in all, while not at the top of their game, I know that Darkstar will continue to improve. If there are two things I hope to see in the future, it would be an A4 hardback with an improved binding and glossier paper. No doubts I can see the A5 being a big hit in future versions.

Disclaimer: I received these notebooks free of charge in exchange for an honest review and had no other compensation. All opinions expressed are my own. I would like to thank the folks over at Darkstar for the opportunity to review these notebooks, as well as the motivational images that brighten my Monday morning.