A chart of UK shops online

This is a chart of UK pen shops, designed to help find elusive brands of pens and ink to compare prices or complete your collection. I’ve concentrated on fountain pens (highlighted green) and ink for fountain pens (highlighted blue unless it’s already green).

UK pens and pencils - a guide to online shops.
preview of the chart

Legend: f=fountain pens;  r=rollerballs;  b=ball pens;  d=drawing pens;  p=pencils;  i=ink.

Download as PDF;  CSV.

This is a companion post to my earlier, larger list of UK pen, ink and paper shops! on which you can find links to the web sites. The list also contains brands only available at one outlet—many marques have been moved out of the chart into this list for size reasons.

I’ve probably made a few mistakes, so please let me know of any errors or omissions. I’ll be adding some more sites soon, but I think I’ve covered the larger ones. Good quill hunting!

Rough Books

IMG_5349
Top of the pile: W H Smith & Son Big Value Jotter. Price: 10p in 1973.

I used “rough books” in my schooldays. The idea was that children would take notes in their rough work book during a class and then transfer this new knowledge in a more polished form to their subject exercise books later. Of course the rough book would also get filled with doodles, various stains and games like hangman —especially during double physics.IMG_5351Any exercise book or notebook will do the job, but you can still buy Rough Work Exercise Books with 60 gsm paper in the UK for a quid each from The Paper Warehouse. In India there is a huge range with attractive covers at IndiaMart. I stopped using the low-quality exercise books that the school provided and took to spiral-bound reporters’ notebooks from W. H. Smith.

IMG_5356I did a lot more than class work with my rough books. Diaries were tiny in the 1970s and could record little of your life unless you could write as small as Charlotte Bronte. Since I was already putting dates on the school stuff it made sense to write about my complex social life, intricate relationships and teenage depressions in the rough book too. Anything really, including logging music chart shows on the BBC, Radio North Sea International and Luxembourg radio stations. And doodles. Lots and lots of doodles: mostly abstract landscapes, weird lettering and spaceships. I would also record quotes and ideas, although later I would keep these together in a proper commonplace book just so that I could find them again.

IMG_5360Once, before a holiday with school chums in Paris, I painted illustrations in the book in advance of going. They will never let me forget that when I wrote it up later, I mixed-up the events of the last two evenings, probably because some lower-6th form girls got me to drink at least two bottles of red wine on the last night.

IMG_5354I hope you get the idea: it’s for a long-form diary or journal, thoughts, early versions, anything on your mind that you want to get down and stop thinking about, or anything you want to record before you forget it, from shopping lists to ideas for blog posts, articles or recipes. You can be as discursive/tangential as you like and often new ideas come this way. Capsule reviews of film or TV — you’ll thank yourself twenty years later! Doodles, sketches. The neighbours’ doings. Stuff that won’t get captured by these new-fangled devices we carry these days, or any thoughts you don’t want to be read by the NSA or GCHQ. If you do keep a diary, then a rough first version at the time can allow you to write a concise account later and be certain whether you shampooed the dog on Tuesday or Wednesday.

IMG_5357As I said in my last blog post, I’m writing this in response to Myke Hurley on the Pen Addict podcast no. 190 who felt like a fraud for not using his accumulation of notebooks and being a collector more than a user. I hope I’ve given you all some ideas you can adopt and adapt. A rough book gives the freedom to write anything until you doze off or an external force intervenes. You can write at any length. Is all this freedom scary? No, it’s only a rough book!

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Tiny notebook, October 1973
Tiny WHS notebook. Listening to the radio, discovering music, in October 1973

I ❤️ The Pen Addict

Since I became interested in drawing and calligraphy, the tools of the trade are a necessity if not an end in themselves. To a collector like me, stationery—especially fountain pens—can be like crack. I found a community online, mainly bloggers and also the Fountain Pen Network, Instagram, Twitter, Slack and app.net users.

Central to this conglomeration is The Pen Addict, a blog run by Brad Dowdy and for the last four years also a podcast by the American Brad and the British Myke Hurley. A few people listen just to hear these pals chatting but there is a lot of information imparted en route. In fact I have gone back to the first podcast to take notes!Notes in a Field Notes notebook in the wild

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s half-gone

I think it’s easy to take all of this for granted. The podcast gives a good, often entertaining, overview of what’s happening while for detailed information there is the blog. This week @iMyke has a throat infection and missed the podcast. Azizah of Gourmet Pens substituted ably. Myke should be back next week, but I should imagine his schedule is so disrupted that he might not be able to take up the responses to his cry for help in his last podcast: not being able to use all the notebooks he has collected. I’m planning a little essay which might help. This will be my next blog entry.

Anyway, Brad and Myke, I love what you’re doing and I like many others were happy to chip in to your Kickstarter to get Myke to the US again (and to get some Pen Addict notebooks) not to mention supporting Brad working full-time on the Pen Addict. Thanks!

My mate: Pilot AM-82G-M

I selected this Pilot pen at random from my collection using random.org on 30/7/15, filled it with purple Murasaki-Shikibu ink and expected to have it reviewed long ago! Pens are still an interest of mine but so are other things and I got sidetracked as usual. Yak-shaving is one term for it. Procrastination, prevarication, prestadigitation…plotting_pilot_pen_purchasesMy prognostication was that Pilot ink in a Pilot pen should be a perfect pairing. However, I got bad flow—gaps in lettering—and hard starts. This led me to an examination of the nib. I found the slit was narrower at the tip: the tines were almost touching.82G nibI’ve read so many pen articles now that I know what to do: grasp the nib by its shoulders and pull sideways. (The tines seemed to be well-aligned otherwise: if one is higher then that should be pulled down, rather than moved up, to keep it in contact with the feed.) It worked like a dream: I must have been lucky because I have never done this before. It can be a good way to ruin a nib. Pen Habit video: Adjusting Your Fountain Pen – Part 1: Ink Flow

Pilot AM-82G-MFixed, with a good wet flow of ink, the pen has been at my side for six months and it has been dependable. Lightweight, sturdy, reliable. What is it with all these lists? As you can see, this 82G has a dark green plastic barrel with a semi-hooded nib. Although the nib is gold in colour, it is not marked 14K or 585 and so it is probably made of steel; gold-plated at best. The cap is formed of a thin, light metal with an inner sleeve and posts nicely onto the barrel, which is adorned with a gold-coloured finial. When not in use, the cap snuggles onto the barrel securely. Pull off, push on. Altogether with a convertor the pen weighs 14 g.

Pilot AM-82G-MThis is a vintage pen about fifty years old; another of my many eBay purchases. There is very little information online on this model. It was also available in black, blue and red. In India it was known as the Pilot Superior.

Pilot AM-82G-M and notesWhat adventures we have had! Well, I usually keep the pen in my trouser pocket and thus I caught it against a doorjamb and bent the clip out. I pushed the clip back into place while gripping the top end with my teeth. This was not a good move because now there are tiny tooth marks. The M label you can see in the first photo is worn. I lost that notebook! In the first photo you can see I was plotting more Pilot pen purchases. What I do is put eBay auctions on my watchlist and record the ending price, to give me an average. Then I can use Goofbid to get a below-average price. I’ve only got this digital photo of the notebook now. The Sailor and Platinum pages are lost to me forever, along with some diary notes, and I think there was a second page of Pilot prices. Before you ask: no, I don’t know where I lost it. Ah well… I’m not buying any more pens at the moment because I have too many in boxes. My idea was to review them here, then half of them would go back on eBay, but in use they reveal their personalities and they all end up being “keepers”, so far. Lovely fountain pens.

IMG_2588 pilot 82GThe medium nib is firm, without flex or line variation, and writes smoothly and consistently. It worked well with the Pilot Iroshizuku Murasaki-Shikibu ink.

Later I switched to Emerald of Chivor ink and this wrote smoothly too.Pilot 82G posted with inky nibThe 82G is a fine pen, like most Pilot pens, and when I say fine I mean very good indeed. I got mine for $29.00 from eBay. If you want to try one, I found some “new old stock” models PILOT AM-82G Fountain Pen US $25.00 available in red (and gold).IMG_4784 82GThis seems to be the only other review of this pen online: My First Review Of A Fp – Pilot Fp Am 82G

The photos are from Em’s, Cafe Fresco, Heddon’s and Coffee Culture cafés in Barnet and Enfield, North London. I hope you enjoyed the review although it could be my most unstructured yet!

Asa Stellar Galactic in a Diamine Steel Blue sea

The landing itself was nothing. We touched upon a shelf of rock selected by the automind and left a galaxy of dreams behind. As I emerged from the reverie I saw Piloto 4 slouched among the nav screens: the shifting patterns of space largely replaced by chat windows. I made a note of it in my log.

Note-taking is but one function of the Galactic, one where it excels. When you get over its space-age looks and the resemblance to the much more expensive Franklin-Christoph 02 or 66 Ice, the real utility of this pen starts to shine. At 32 g with ink it is heavy but because of its large size it feels lighter than it is.
Asa Galactic unposted
It comes with a great German nib. In use it is like a trusty needlepoint that gets grabbed when something needs to be scribbled down. I don’t even worry too much about making sure the nib is level before writing. It can handle it! No hard starts. Because of the wide girth of the grip it also reminds me of the old metal-cased marker pens of the 1960s that were similarly reliable.
Asa Galactic stock nib
The pen is gorgeous. On the brushed acrylic cap is a clear polished jewel that catches light. This unscrews to allow replacement of the stiff clip. It would be great if the jewel (a pen term for any shape of material at the end of a pen) focussed on the end of the nib inside, but it doesn’t. The cap also unscrews, a characteristic of more expensive fountain pens.
Asa Galactic uninked
The steel nib is firm, almost hard, with practically no line variation, but very smooth and reliable. The feed is transparent so the end of the nib and the section inside can be seen, both coated with ink. This is an eyedropper pen, designed to be full of ink sloshing around and it looks pretty good with the Steel Blue ink I selected at random. It can take a lot of ink: about 4 ml. The long barrel is also brushed acrylic with a solid, polished, rounded end that looks like glass.
Asa Galactic lens
The barrel unscrews for filling and a small eyedropper (supplied) or syringe will be needed to transfer ink from a bottle. The threads are lightly greased to keep the ink inside.

The Diamine Steel Blue ink behaved well. It flows fine. But it looks green on the page! Definitely the green side of teal. There is not much shading and no sheen.

Asa Stellar Galactic with Zig CocoiroTwo main problems: the pen does burp a little from around the nib. Some ink, just a drop or two, will blob out and transfer to the threads of the cap and the grip section. Mostly this is when the pen is still in my discarded trousers and they are flung around but this doesn’t happen with other pens. It does not look good.

The other problem for some people is going to be the thickness of the grip, exacerbated by a squared-off lip near the nib. I don’t mind the grip, in fact I can use any pen so long as the grip is not slippery, tacky, sharp-edged or brushed aluminium.
Asa Galactic on cafe table
Overall I recommend this pen. The burping could be obviated by storing the pen upright when not wearing it. It’s an ever-ready note taker that also looks great. Picture: Wality 69T / Asa Galactic / Pilot Volex:
Wality 69T / Asa Galactic / Pilot Volex.
I paid £20.33 for mine from AsaPens in India. They say the Galactic is the first of the ASA Stellar series. I chose the stock nib and asked that they test the pen. There is also an option for another (Jowo?) nib instead of the stock nib. The pen was supplied in a handsome black bag with golden drawstrings.
Asa Galactic with Steel Blue ink
Something was wrong: my hands felt clammy. I was holding the pen but it wasn’t ink on my fingers. A clear liquid… it must be the silicone that Asa used to seal their pens, which could only mean – pressure drop! I turned quickly and saw the meteorite hole punched through the ship wall. Nearest to hand was Piloto 4’s spare head which sealed the breach nicely. Calvert opined they might have to give me another medal, but I knew it was the Asa Galactic that deserved the award.

Pelikan 120 fountain pen and Pelikan Royal Blue ink

I hate to take you on a “journey” like every other Hollywood film or television documentary but as the events depicted in this pen and ink review are of no import whatsoever you should be fairly safe.
Pelikan 120 (centre)

I selected pen and ink at random: the pen is a German Pelikan 120 school pen although it has the same coloration of black, green and gold as their more expensive models. The green is a solid colour without stripes or striations. According to the excellent blog The Pelikan’s Perch, I have the 120 Mark II produced 1973-77. In this picture the 120 is shown between a Senator 47 and a Pilot G-TEC-C4.

First Impressions

It’s light at 14g. The end of the barrel twists to move the piston. It’s a bit stiff but fully functional and on a hot day in London (no really) slippery to turn. I filled the pen without fuss or getting inky fingers. The ink window is tinted green but clearly shows the ink within. The grip section tapers towards the nib and has no lip which is unusual but works for me. Anyone who has a really low grip might find their delicate digits daubed by the long nib.

The pen feels good, comfortable. Because it is light, I like it better with the cap posted. The nib is really fine, more like a Japanese fine than a German fine.

Pelikan 120 posing

My ink is another Pelikan product: 4001 Royal Blue ink (Füllhaltertinte 4001 königsblau). I selected a bottle with gothic script on the label, which came in a gift box with another pen. This ink was a bit of wash-out. It’s more like a light blue-black colour, with a mauve tinge.

Pelikan Royal Blue inks

While ink flows well enough, the line left is so thin at times with my light touch — thinner than the printed grid on the Rhodia paper — that a light ink like this does not make the cut. I switched to the bottle with the modern label. Flushing out the pen and refilling was no problem. This worked much better for me because I got a faster flow from the new ink which produced slightly wider lines, and it was a proper blue. Both these inks would benefit from a wider nib. The two inks are shown here:

Royal Blue ink x 2

As you can see this nib flexes! I can get quite wide lines with a little pressure. I shall have to be rougher with it: press harder and get wider, more legible strokes. My years of using a fountain pen at secondary school have honed my precision so that I use the minimum force of pen on paper. This nib is so fine that I might need to use only dark ink in it to make fine lines visible.

Pelikan 120 - Fine nib

There’s bite from the nib, some feedback which sounds scratchy but is not unpleasant. I have not attempted to realign the tines yet.

Maybe it was the flex of the nib that drove me to spend £45.87 including postage? This was in October last year. I would look to spend around half of this price now. Granted, there are only three of these pens on eBay right now and one has just gone for £48.75 but patience is a virtue. I should have waited for a cheaper one to come along.

As I mentioned before, this is a school pen. Not to be sneered at: quite the opposite because it means the pen was built to last and to be used daily. The 120 was eventually replaced by the Pelikano. Here are two Pelikanos and a 120:

Pelikan Pelikanos and 120

The Pelikan’s Perch also informs me that Merz & Krell were the makers of this pen. The 120 was one of only two Pelikan models that were ever outsourced. Merz & Krell were known for their Melbi, Senator, and Diplomat pens. By a remarkable coincidence, the other pen I have in daily use, shown in the very first picture, is a Senator 47!

So we have arrived at journey’s end. I paired pen and ink and then found a pair of inks, a pair of school pens and a pair of Senators. Thanks for making the trip(let).