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).

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

  • 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.

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.

UK pen, ink and paper shops!

These are the fountain pen websites that I have found so far in the UK. I’ve tried to describe their specialities. Hover over the link to see the web page title.

UPDATE: March 2016. I’ve revised the first part of this list extensively. I’ve have also published a companion chart to help you find which shops stock which brand.

  • Andy’s Pens — Vintage and new, some old stock, fountain pens incl. Baoer, Black Forest, Burnham, Coles, Cresco, Dikawen, Fellowship, Hero, Jinhao, Lalex, Manu Propia, Pelikan, Sailor, Varuna and Wing Sung. Inks, refills (incl. Schmidt refills for rollerballs and ballpoints), metal (silver-tipped) everlasting pencils by Axel Weinbrecth and Napkin, Archie Grand and Monsieur notebooks, journals, Crown Mill paper, Cathian blotters and blotting paper, pen cases, books etc.
  • Battersea Pen Home — Repairs, vintage pens, modern Parker, Diplomat, Visconti, Yard-o-Led pencils and pens and ballpoints etc., ink, refills, nibs, etc.
  • Bureau Direct — Huge range of notebooks and pads, pens, brush pens, highlighters and pencils (incl. Papelote), Lamy, ink, refills, diaries, envelopes, paper, washi tape etc. Some interesting bundles and colour collections!
  • Blots Pen and Ink Supplies — Calligraphy pens and inks, fountain pens and inks, paper and pads up to 250 gsm; art supplies.
  • Carneil Pens — Fountain pens: Parker, Mont Blanc…, sale and repair, restoration and service. Mechanical pencils and leads. Peter Crook’s own “Carneil” fountain pens.
  • Cult Pens — Big range of pens from Aristo to Staedtler, TWSBI, Visconti to Zig. Pencils, ink, notebooks, converters, markers, Nikko G nibs, Sennelier inks, Schmidt refills, Spacetec—similar to Fisher Space pens, Zero desk pens, metal (silver-tipped) everlasting pencils by Axel Weinbrecth and Forever, Perpetua pencils… I think they have everything, even exclusive Kaweco pens and Deep Dark Diamine inks.
  • Eric Wilson — Pen repair and restoration. Some sales.
  • Europens — Fountain pens, fineliners, refills, ink. Brands range from Caran d’Ache to Zebra. Filofax, wallets.
  • The Hamilton Pen Company — Fountain pens, ink including De Atramentis, refills, Derwent art and drawing range, journals and notebooks.
  • Hepworth Dixon — Vintage fountain pens.
  • Heritage — Vintage pens ranging from Aurora to Wyvern. Parts, repairs.
  • Iridium — Pens (Pelikan, Omas…), ink, pencils, notebooks. Great shop in Kendal, near the Lake District.
  • The Journal Shop — Platinum, Tombow and Schneider fountain pens, notebooks, Blackwing pencils, mechanical pencils from Mark’s Tokyo Edge, heavy Metaphys pens and pencils, planners, masking tape, ink, stationery, diaries, crafting, etc.
  • MrPen — Italix, Stipula, Sheaffer, Waterman, Parker, Sigma Style, Caran d’Ache, Harrison Brothers and Howson, etc. Inks, calligraphy, nibs—custom grinds. Repairs by Pen Museum.
  • Niche Pens — All kinds of pens, from Berol to Zebra. Notebooks, markers, pencils, engraving. Pelikan specialists; owner of Pure pens (see below).
  • Nook — Kaweco fountain pens, Blackwing pencils etc.
  • Objects of Use — Pens by Kaweco, pencils, notebooks, etc.
  • The Pen and Paper Stationery Company — Pens, refills, ink, paper, notebooks, journals, technical drawing, art materials etc.
  • The Pen Company — Pens ranging from Bentley, Sailor to Visconti, pencils, ink (Delta, Diamine, Pelikan, Sailor etc.), refills, pen spare parts, stationery, diaries.
  • Pen Heaven — Luxury pens (+ engraving), leather journals (+ embossing), gift sets, refills, ink, converters. Also more reasonably-priced pens such as Ohto and Lamy.
  • The Pen Practice — Vintage fountain pens and repair tools. Advice on restoration.
  • The Pen Shop — 25 fountain pen brands including Chopard, Coles Calligraphy, Dex, Franklin Covey, Kingsley, Montblanc, Otto Hutt, Tibaldi Bentley; 22 pencil brands. Ink, refills.
  • Pen to Paper — Notebooks, diaries, journals, pens incl. Lamy, inks.
  • Penamie — Vintage and some (used) modern fountain pens, including Parker, Waterman’s, Sheaffer, Onoto.
  • Penbox — New and vintage fountain pens, from Aurora to Yoropen and Burnham to Wyvern. Ink, nibs, converters, pen pouches and boxes.
  • PenmanDirect — Calligraphy inks, nibs, italic markers, paper, gilding equipment, vintage nibs, card, parchment and papyrus.
  • PenSella — Vintage fountain pens, new Duke, Kaigelu and Touchwood pens, etc.
  • PenShed — Fountain pens, rollerballs and ballpoints by Kaweko, Retro 51 and Harley Davidson. Mechanical pencils, pen refills etc.
  • Penworkshop — Vintage and modern fountain pens and pencils. Sacs, materials, servicing tools and kits.
  • Pure Pens — Fountain pens and inks from most marques including Noodler’s, Hugo Boss, Kingsley, Ted Baker and TWSBI. Paper, notebooks, engraving.
  • Tiger Pens — Pens ranging from Artline, Bic, Chameleon, Chartpak, EZ Grip, Fjader to Zebra, markers, pencils (incl. Brunynzeel Sakura), ink, nibs.
  • Websters Pen Shop — Fountain pens, Mont Blanc products, refills, ink, Filofax.
  • Write Here — Pens including Omas, Conway Stewart and Sailor, ink, refills, paper, notebooks, nibs converters, art supplies. List of UK pen shows.
  • Writetime — Vintage pens.
  • The Writing Desk — Fountain pens including TWSBI, Sailor, Stipula, Hugo Boss and Edison, a big range of ink including Conway Stewart, Organics Studio, Private Reserve, Pelikan, Rohrer and Klingner and De Atramentis, (and nine exclusive Diamine inks), nibs, dip pen nibs, glass pens, refills, converters, paper, notebooks, etc.


  • Fountain Pen Revolution — New FPR Dilli, Guri, Indus and other models with various nibs including flex; Serwex and other reasonably-priced fountain pens from India. Handmade pens by Deccan, Gama and Guider. Vintage pens.
  • MARTINIauctions — Berlin-based alternative to eBay “for Fountain Pen Aficionados”.


  • Artstore — Art supplies, paper, calligraphy.
  • Atlantis — Paper, ink and calligraphy, art supplies.
  • Barnet Gallery — my local art materials shop and gallery.
  • Choosing Keeping — Kaweco pens and cartridges, Schreibtinte inks, pencils, notebooks, sketchbooks etc. etc.
  • Fred Aldous — Calligraphy, paper, board, art supplies, craft, casting and modelling, haberdashery, print and photography, laser cutting…. Their blog.
  • Jenner’s of Princes Street. Now it’s a House of Fraser. Fountain pens by KingsleyCrossWatermanLamySheafferParkerFerrari.
  • Muji — Pens and pencils, notebooks and diaries, sketch books and origami paper. They discontinued their fountain pen.
  • Paperchase — High street stationers. A few Kaweco, Lamy and Cross fountain pens; Rhodia, Clairefontaine graf it notebooks and their own Parchment line. Art supplies.
  • Pedlars — Blackwing pencils. Pedlars 100 gsm notebooks. Stationery and vintage homewares. Prints, bags, etc. Transport signs and bus blinds.
  • Present & Correct — well-designed items of stationery, even a typewriter.
  • Scriptum — Quills and dip pens, journals, writing paper, sealing wax.
  • Woods the Stationers — Cross and Lamy fountain pens. Rollerballs, etc. Leuchtturm journals, Filofax, Basildon Bond writing paper.

Please let me know of any errors or omissions. Ta! Enjoy!

Bad feathering

Bad FeatheringNoodler’s Golden Brown ink feathering (expanding) and spidering on cheap paper: a W. H. Smith notebook.

I first called this blog ‘Pen & Ink’. I was thinking of renaming it ‘Bad Feathering’. Sounds a bit saucy! Pen & Ink, by the way, is Cockney rhyming slang for a stink. Or how about: ‘The Moving Finger’ from the famous quotation. Even saucier.


‘Pen & Ink’ is generic and there’s a tattoo site of the same name. I’ve changed the title to ‘Pensive’ which better reflects my personality and is a bona fide pen pun. Luckily I checked a dictionary before plumping for ‘Pensivity’.