Tag Archives: fountain pens

Zebra V-301

When I first read about the Zebra V-301 I figured it might be a decent, inexpensive pen that could compete with the Pilot Vpen but I think it falls short in too many ways. One of the major points of differentiation between the V-301 and the Vpen is that the V-301 is refillable. Unfortunately, it can only be refilled with proprietary cartridges.

This pen was disappointing right out of the box. Despite being made out of stainless steel it felt flimsy. The pen body is satisfactory but the section is cheap plastic and the cap does not fit well nor does it post properly. The pen also fails in the most basic and critical aspect of a pen in that it doesn’t write, well at least not properly. Once loaded with the cartridge the pen took quite some time to start and would skip badly and not restart after a break of any length of time.

I appreciate the fact that Zebra was trying to put a fountain pen out to market that was inexpensive and not disposable but this pen just misses on too many points. This pen was released in Canada in January and should be available in the US in the spring. When I found these at Staples here I also bought one for Chris over at Pens N Paper who also shares his thoughts.

The bottom line is I would buy a Vpen if you need a fountain pen for under 5$



Filed under Reviews

Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari – Orange with M nib and Charcoal with 1.5mm

When I first felt the desire to dive into the world of Fountain Pens I decided I wanted to buy my first pen at a brick and mortar retailer because I wanted to talk face to face with someone and I wanted to see and feel my potential pens. Over the Thanksgiving weekend last October I visited Phidon Pens in Cambridge, Ontario and received excellent service. Manu discussed with me entry level priced pens and suggested that I look at the Lamy Safari , Lamy Al-Star and a Pelikano. I instantly fell in love with bright orange Safari and picked it up. I like the feel of the Safari and I really enjoy writing with it.

Orange Lamy Safari

Orange Lamy Safari

A few weeks and months went by and I felt the need for another pen. The Writing Desk was having a sale on the Safaris and I wanted to try an italic nib for an inexpensive price so I got my second Safari, a Charcoal with the 1.5mm italic nib. This pen is great and I carry it almost daily. I love the texture and the 1.5mm nib is so much fun to write with.

Charcoal Lamy Safari with 1.5 mm Nib

Charcoal Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari Writing Sample

Lamy Safari Writing Sample

Appearance & Design (8)

I like the look of the Safari but some find it too utilitarian.

Charcoal Lamy Safari

Charcoal Lamy Safari

Construction & Quality (8)

The Safari is a well built pen but it does have that ABS feel. The Charcoal version does have a more solid feel due to the matte finish and texture.

Weight & Dimensions (9)

I find the Safari to be very well balanced and comfortable to write with

Nib & Performance (M: 7 , 1.5mm: 9)

M nib: The medium nib doesn’t stand out but it is a solid performer and lays a nice line.

1.5mm: This is the nib that got me hooked on Fountain Pens. I love writing with this one. I love the way it makes ink perform. This is my favourite nib for writing in my journal and letters.

Filling System & Maintenance (6)

This is of course the failing of the Safari and many modern pens. The seller of both the pens included converters but C/C pens are average.

Cost & Value (8)

I think the Safaris are a good value.

Conclusion (M: 7.7 1.5mm: 8 )

I believe the Safari is an excellent starter pen. I like the look and feel and the nibs are solid performers.

Orange Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari

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Filed under Fountain Pens, Reviews

TWSBI Diamond 530


TWSBI Diamond 530

TWSBI review 1/2

TWSBI Review

TWSBI review 2/2

TWSBI Review

The TWSBI Diamond 530 is one of the most talked about pen in the Fountain Pen world at the moment and now that I have succumbed to its siren call I can share some thoughts with my faithful readers.

Much of the hype surrounding the TWSBI comes from the open nature of the design and the effort that the designer, Speedy, went to in order to ensure he was creating a pen that people wanted. It is also remarkable because you get a large, piston filler pen for under 50$.

When I cut open the padded envelope I was greeted by a box adorned with the TWSBI logo.



Inside the box was a plastic case that contained and displayed the pen. I had seen pictures of the TWSBI case but I was struck by how well made and solid it felt which I figured was a good sign for the pen within.



Yes the pen pictured is already filled. I was too anxious to use it to take the pictures as I opened.

The case contains the Diamond 530, a wrench for disassembly, some silicone grease and complete care instructions. I don’t think many other manufacturers would include complete schematics of their pens inner workings and the tools to fool with it and that is one of the things that appealed to me. The TWSBI philosophy has a very DIY ethos.

TWSBI and Tools

TWSBI Contents

Appearance & Design (9)

The pen is quite nice. The plastic is crisp and clear. I am not a Demonstrator fan boy but it seems appropriate for a pen that is some open about its design. The “diamond” cut facets on the barrel give the pen a nice look. The trim accents the pen nicely.

Construction & Quality (9)

The TWSBI Diamond 530 is a solid pen and despite being made inexpensively and of clear plastic it feels well constructed. The piston action is smooth and easy. Every part fits together well and you can see it was well tested.

Weight & Dimensions (9)

The pen is heavier than I thought it would be and the barrel diameter is great for my hand. My only issue is that I am having a hard time getting used to using a pen unposted. I tried posting the TWSBI but found that it really threw off the pen’s balance.

Nib & Performance (8)



The nib was a real surprise. It was smooth and laid a wet line straight out of the box. Compared to my Lamy steel nibs I found that the TWSBI nib actually has a bit spring to it (not flex) that made writing smooth.

Filling System & Maintenance (10)

This is obviously one of TWSBI’s biggest selling points. The pen is a piston fill, which I love, and it includes everything you could need to take it down to its base components and reassemble.

Cost & Value (10)

A large, piston filler with a decent nib for 40$ USD. Need I say more.

Conclusion (9.1)

I cannot say that this is my favourite pen, yet, but I have a feeling that it may well become it. The pen write well, feel great and looks good. The pen gives you what many people look for in much pricier pens for a very reasonable entry level price. If you don’t have a TWSBI do yourself a favour and forgo the lattes for a week and spend that cash on this instead.


TWSBI Diamond 530



Other reviews that helped me make my decision:

Dizzy Pen
Ravens March
Pocket Blonde


Filed under Reviews


Paper-Papier Bag


Paper-Papier is located at 178 Clarence Street in Ottawa’s famous Byward market. It is a lovely store and has many fans, some of whom have already said a few kind words about it, but I thought I would focus on their Fountain Pen and Ink related products.

As you enter the store many people will notice how beautiful the store is. It is well lit, well decorated and most importantly well stocked with paper of every colour. The store is elegant and very well configured. I am drawn, of course, to the rear corner where the glass cabinets containing the Fountain Pens, Inks and Sealing Wax are kept. They carry a variety of brands and a large selection of each.

There are pens from Monteverde, Waterman, Lamy, Diplomat and Shaeffer. The Day I visited the store co-owner Gary Stern was happy to show me the newly arrived Faber-Castells. The pens are well displayed and lit and the staff is more than happy to open up the cabinets and let you have a good look (and feel) at your potential purchase.


Waterman Pens and Ink


Lamy Safaris


Lamy Al-Stars and Rollerballs


Monteverde Pens

The ink selection is also quite good as they carry Waterman, Lamy and a large selection of J. Herbin. You should be able to find an ink for any taste or mood. One interesting find was a bottle of J. Herbin’s anniversary ink, 1670 Rouge Hematite. There are conservative business blues and blacks and adventurous reds and greens. Most of the inks are available in bottles but there are some cartridges available.


J. Herbin Inks

Pens and inks are great but for your fine instrument to perform at its best you need proper paper. In case you couldn’t guess from the store name, they have whatever you could need. They carry a HUGE variety of papers, but the ones that most Fountain Pen users are familiar with are; Rhodia, Clairefountaine and G. lalo. My personal favourite is the Clairefountaine Triomphe pads that I love to use for my correspondence. I was also happy to learn from Gary that anything that the suppliers carry that isn’t in stock can be ordered. I will be taking him up on this as I am anxious to try some of Clairefountaine’s Seyes ruled notebooks.

One of my favourite aspects of Paper-Papier is the personal touch. I love going in, being greeted and browsing with the knowledge that the staff is always glad to answer questions or to demonstrate a product. Some of the pens and inks they carry can be found online for slightly less, but when you are looking at buying a pen and spending a significant amount of money on it (especially for first time buyers) it is really great to be able to handle the pen and feel its weight and fit before purchasing. This is the service and intangible qualities embodied in a brick and mortar store like Paper-Papier.

Monteverde Prima Selection

The Whole Package


Filed under Fountain Pens, Paper, Reviews, Vendor

Baoer 517

I have just received and inked a Baoer 517 from eBay. I purchased it for a Dollar and figured what I had nothing to lose at that price.

Posted 517

517 Posted

Capped 517

517 Capped

Writing Sample

Wrting Sample

Appearance & Design (7)

The 517 is a nice looking pen. It is a deep red with a black marble pattern and black and chrome accents. The most unique aspect of the pen is the interesting Clip design which I think will be love it or hate it for many people. The nib is two toned and is pretty enough.

Construction & Quality (7)

The pen seems to be constructed well enough. Nothing jumped out at me upon inspection as seeming fragile or of poor quality. The only real weak spot is that the converter seems a little poor but functions and holds ink well.

Weight & Dimensions (5)

This is a small pen. It is about 2 CM shorter than a Safari unposted and about 4 CM shorter posted. It is very close in size to the Pilot Vpen. The weight is nice and gives the pen a nice feel in the hand. This pen is not for those looking for a large pen.

Unposted Size Comparison

Unposted Size Comparison

Posted Size Comparison

Posted Size Comparison

Nib & Performance (5)

The nib seems to write fairly dry but smooth none the less. I did have some issues after letting it sit, it took some time to start but once started it flowed nicely. When writing there were a few instances of ink skipping but nothing major.

Filling System & Maintenance (6)

The 517 is a C/C pen. The included converter is a little on the cheap side but functional. Seems to hold a decent amount of ink.

Cost & Value (8)

This a decent pen for a great price. I cost me a bit more than a Vpen with shipping but offers far more flexibility as it comes with a converter and requires no hacking to refill. The styling and feel is better than I would expect for a Dollar. I am very satistfied with the product I received at this price point.

Conclusion (6.3)

I certainly would not tell anyone to rush out and buy this pen but I do not think it will disappoint if you do. It is nice looking and functional little pen that offers a good value.


This review was written for the “out of the box” 517. I have since removed the breather tube adn cut a wider notch in the top to feed more ink to the nib. These modifications have corrected the skips and dry starts.


Filed under Fountain Pens, Reviews

Gift Pen

Gratuitous Nib Shot

Esterbrook 1554 Nib

I was lamenting the other day on FPN how I wanted to buy a Esterbrook but would have to wait until the holidays to make the purchase, well it turns out that a kind soul on the board took pity on me and sent me one of his Esterbrooks, gratis!

I have been a recipient of many random acts of kindness of late and they have all made me happy and thankful.


Esterbrook SJ


Filed under Fountain Pens

Mont Blanc 147



Mont Blanc is an icon. Mont Blanc is a name that even people who are not pen geeks know, and as a pen geek I thought I should familiarize myself with this renowned pen maker (among other luxury items). Luckily, I have a friend that was kind enough to lend me his 147 so that I could experience a Mont Blanc for myself.

The official Mont Blanc description of the pen is:

Meisterstück Le Grand Traveller
Cartridge fountain pen, 14 K gold nib with rhodium-plated inlay, barrel and cap made of black precious resin inlaid with Montblanc emblem, gold-plated clip, rings and cartridge filling system, travel case

I have no delusions that the “precious resin” is simply some good quality acrylic but that does not deter from the fact that this pen is a beauty. The nib is gorgeous two tone and the gold accents are perfect. The classic cigar shape allows the pen to fall naturally into one’s hand and the weight in balance make it feel like it is floating.
The writing experience with the 147 was a treat. The nib was smooth and laid a consistent, wet line of ink. The only con I can really give this pen is the limitation of being a cartridge only pen and of course the price is beyond my means.

Writing sample

Writing Sample

To change the cartridge you unscrew the blind cap and remove the inner cartridge mount. The mount has room for a second cartridge which is nice feature. The mount itself is also nice to look at and you can tell that at this price point you are really paying for fit and finish.
I realize that you can get an equally good writing experience from some pens at much lower price points but the same can be said of buying a Mercedes instead of a Toyota, both cars will get you there but one is an experience. I really enjoyed the pen and would definitely buy a 146 or 149 to avoid the cartridges but that is a long way away.



First Impressions (10/10)

You can’t help but admire it right away.

Appearance (10/10)

This is a classic look and cannot be faulted.

Design/Size/Weight (8/10)

The cigar shaped pen is classic. Some prefer the larger size and weight of the 149.

Nib (10/10)

Beautiful two tone 14K.

Filling System (5/10)

The only fault of the pen is the cartridge fill.

Cost and Value (NA)

I cannot fairly assess this as I did not pay for it.

Conclusion (8.6/10)

This pen offers classic beauty and styling, it writes beautifully and its only major flaw is the filling system.

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Filed under Reviews