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).

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Ooh, the colours!

Ink swatch index

I’ve made some ink swatches on cards; this is the index in a Field Notes memo book:
ink swab swatch index 1-2
I used a dip pen for most of these samples and a cotton bud to make the swabs.
ink swab swatch index 3-4
Notes:

  • 1 and 17 – Faded vintage ink.
  • 2 and 43 – Calligraphy ink.
  • 20, 21 and 44 – Diamine special Cult Pens edition.

The Field Notes Finch paper is quite porous and does not show the sheen or shading of the inks as  a heavier paper or card would. It does reveal bleeding and feathering, however! So this list is mainly for colour comparison and to help me to find the swatch.

Best-behaved ink: 26. Only ink with no show-through: 5.

My swatches look like this:

Purple inks
These are made with the dip pen again on Clairefontaine Exacompa record cards. I can see feathering from the Standardgraph ink, even on this heavy 205g card stock. It seems a bit watery without much shading. That one may have to go. The Deep Dark Purple, on the other hand, has a gorgeous green sheen. Can’t wait.

Eight pens I forgot about

Eight pens I forgot aboutI sorted out my pen boxes last week. A shoe box and a cake box filled with the accumulated stationery of my lifetime. Among the gel pens and rollerballs (which are now going to Oxfam) I found these:

  1. Lamy Joy black and red pen, 1.5 nib.
  2. Platignum black desk pen, medium italic nib.
  3. William Mitchell dip pen with spare nibs.
  4. Pilot V-Pen, blue ink, medium nib – recent.
  5. French Tintin pen with broken clip, from a holiday in Paris.
  6. W H Smith calligraphy pen with twist converter, broad italic Platignum nib.
  7. Pilot V-Pen, turquoise erasable ink, medium nib – older.
  8. Campo Marzio Minny orange (mandarin)/gold pen, German iridium nib, turquoise ink cartridges, from an Italian holiday.

I’ll add these to my collection and review them some day, paired with a random ink.

This reminds me of the last time that I cleared out some pens, ten years ago, gripped with minimalist zeal. One of the first to go was the purple fountain pen that I filled with turquoise ink and then used to fill many notebooks and “rough books” in my teens. Yes, I still have the notebooks! I thought a photo of the pen would substitute for the real thing. I wish I still had it.
Old pens - KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA There is also a scan:
scan of old pens 2005
This in turn reminds me of a similar effort at clearing out my LPs when they were replaced by CDs. No Pussyfooting I had Fripp & Eno’s No Pussyfooting and loved it, but the disc got a lot of wear and accumulated dust and crackles so I was very happy with the CD release in about 1985 on Editions EG, but the cover was a cropped version of the original with larger text; not the same, not gatefold either. I miss the vinyl, especially the typography of the label, as an object, as art and design and guess what: I did not replace many more LPs with CDs. I got both. So much for sacrificing one’s darlings and meaning to carry on decluttering with less regret.

I just watched a little of ‘Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners’ on television in which a hoarder stated that she did not want to throw any memories away. Of course, we’re both wrong. We will always have the memories, but not the objects that trigger them.

Senator 47 Krome / Stormy Grey ink

This is an old German fountain pen I bought through eBay for £12.46 including P&P. It’s “new old stock” (NOS) which is unsold shop goods, later offered for resale. The box was water-stained. Senator 47 Krome
The pen was as-new — it still had the silver E.F (nib size) sticker attached to the barrel. All I know about Senator pens is from Google: “Merz & Krell made Senators and some pens under licence for Pelikan.”
Senator 47 Krome labelThe seller promised: “EXTRA FINE SOFT SENATOR IRIDIUM POINT NIB. SMOOTH WRITING, INK FLOW ORDER.” “GOOD PEN SOFT WRITING FOR DAILY USE.” I’ve been using it for a few months and it is indeed smooth with a good flow, so reliable in fact that it is now my favourite pen, just edging it over the TWSBI 580. (The sticker is still legible but now only half attached.)
Clairefontaine paper - Stormy Grey ink - Senator 47 KromeThe barrel is a hard black plastic or resin, the cap is thin steel (not chrome?). The nib is gold-plated steel with an iridium extra fine tip although it writes more like a medium size with a bit of flex. The nib is partly hooded, with a diamond emblem. The 47 is a piston-filler, with a ring of transparent ink windows around the barrel in the same arrangement as the standard Noodler’s pen, except this Senator pen is dated around 1970. The grip is fine; the weight with the cap posted is still light at 11 grams and is well-balanced for me.Senator 47 Krome - Stormy Grey ink
You may well find these pens on eBay or Etsy shipping from Istanbul, with burgundy or black barrels. I recommend them! As I picked up one of these NOS Senators cheaply, I thought it would not be too much of a risk to fill it with Stormy Grey 1670 Anniversary ink made by J. Herbin.
Stormy Grey inkThis ink was new at the time and the inclusion of real gold flakes in the ink had many pen bloggers concerned with the possibility of clogging. This has not been a problem at all. Sometimes the gold will not appear if the pen has been resting: the appearance of my script is then a normal, albeit lush, black ink. Simply inverting or rotating the pen will usually stir up lots of gold. Arrrrr, real gold, me hearties! Obviously the ink bottle needs shaking immediately before filling the pen because the metal quickly sinks to the bottom. The ink is well-behaved and quite wet, ie wetter than some other inks! It feels lubricated. And when it is dry it is dry — no smearing — after about twenty-five seconds, when the glistening black line will dry out to reveal the gold specks sticking to the paper.

Stormy Grey ink
Stormy Grey 1670 Anniversary ink on Clairefontaine paper

Grey seems to be a misnomer: this ink is dark. The colour is similar to Noodler’s Kung-Te-Cheng ink but the gold flecks make it appear lighter. Without a reference point one might assume it is black but when compared to a really black ink such as Noodler’s Black we can see it is grey.

Senator 47 Krome - Stormy Grey ink
Senator 47 Krome – Stormy Grey ink – Bloc Rhodia paper 

The ink bleeds slightly on Field Notes Finch Paper but is fine otherwise, on Rhodia for instance.

I inked the pen on Halloween last year and it’s just run out, so I added some water. Now it’s writing pretty much as before, with a lot of extra gold! Amazingly the ink seems to be just as dark.
Senator 47 Krome - Stormy Grey ink boxed
So, there are pen bargains to be had on eBay. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing of course: I have bought a few duds as well. I’ll be writing a post about fountain pens on eBay soon to let you know what I have learned.

Stationery for Beginners

I’ve noticed a few introductory articles recently: here are some that helped me.

Pens

Top 7 Beginner Fountain Pens under $25 NB the Pilot Metropolitan is called the MR in the UK.

Recommended Products & Retailers in the UK. Top 5 lists of pens, paper, pencils and inks.

Guide to Nibs and Nib Holders Dip pens, not new-fangled fountain pens.

Resource: The Pen Chalet Infographics Pens and ink – the basics

Paper

Different Types of Paper – Information on paper and inspirational art.

Paper Notebooks Explained

Inspiration

Leigh Reyes. My life as a verb.

Gourmet Pens – Colourful penmanship, particularly the Ink Shots.

80 calligraphers and hand lettering artists to follow on Instagram

Lettering and Illustration by Matthew Morse, who deserves to be in the Instagram list above.

I hope you liked those links! A great resource to find and search fountain pen blogs is Pennaquod. (Two of the links on this page are via On Fountain Pens, the rest are from my Feedly. The Well-Appointed Desk blog found three of the same links this week!)

Maintenance

The Fountain Pen Tool Kit – other bits and bobs you might need.

Golden rod – the Lamy Al-Star copperorange

CopperOrange on a cafe table

News from Heidelberg

I’ve leapt into the world of fountain pens. A rite of passage I skipped was owning the widely-available Lamy Safari from Germany that every pen fiend is supposed to start with. Instead, when Lamy announced this special edition orange beautyLAMY CopperOrange and Field Notes I had to have it even though it was not an ABS plastic Safari but the more expensive (£21) aluminium Al-Star. The colour!
LAMY on another table I ordered the pen straight away from Fontoplumo just after New Year and it arrived in February. In fact, I jumped the gun because the matching ink was not available then. Now you can get copperorange (one word) in cartridges and bottles. So for this review I started using Orange Indien ink which is similar but lighter than the pukka copperorange ink.
Orange Indien ink And now I’ve taken so long before starting to write about this pen that I’ve carried every day, that Lamy have brought out a new special Safari colour: NeonLime. The CopperOrange Al-Star remains on sale presently.

It’s all good

LAMY 1.1 nib - undersideI ordered the 1.1 nib size which is very broad, because I like a bit of line variation. There was not as much as I expected. The first thing I noticed about the nib is that there is no tipping material. Usually a blob of iridium sits on the end of a nib. Still, it’s smooth enough and quite firm. There’s a tiny amount of give: it’s more flexible than a girder, but only just. Under the microscope we can see the nib is rounded and polished at the end. You can also see what looks like rust: this is dried orange ink and a couple of fibres. Some wag on the PenAddict Slack thought I had been filling it with sea water! (Under normal light the nib is shiny and the plastic feed is black.)
LAMY CopperOrange and MarmiteWith the J Herbin Orange Indien ink, the pen would not start writing immediately if I had left it for a few minutes while I gazed into the middle distance thinking about who knows what. After a hard start the ink was also darker. The arrival of the copperorange ink relieved this problem: no more scribbling in the corner to get the ink flow going and it also seems a bit smoother.
flow at last! Orange Indien One ink note: I missed the brilliant orange of the J Herbin ink. The Lamy ink is darker and shades less.
TWSBI and LAMY CopperAt 20 grams the pen is 2/3 the weight of a TWSBI and I have no problem using the Lamy with the cap on. The cap snaps on when closed and the unusual clip is secure in the pocket. Unlike my TWSBI it has never detached from the rest of the pen while pocketed! My grip (the way I hold a pen) suits the funky transparent triangular section.Betjeman - Contrasts
So, to sum up, this is a smooth writer. It looks great: the metallic surface gleams with rich orange shades. There is nothing wrong with this pen.Orange pen

Wabi sabi

IMG_9784 I don’t know whether Lamy took wabi-sabi into account when they designed this pen. After a couple of months there is wear at the base of the cap and barrel. The base aluminium is showing through the orange coating. It’s not noticeable: I needed a microscope to photograph it. Am I obsessing over details? Did you notice I used a hyphen once in wabi sabi but not in the heading? Thought so. Exactly. I hope you’ll enjoy some more pictures:LAMY in yet another cafe Lamy close-upLAMY CopperOrange on redI've been writing for a long timeBasildon Bond - with guide sheet but no blotting paper