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).

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.


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


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

Paper Notebooks Explained


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!)


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

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!

Noodler’s Nib Creaper fountain pen

One of the first aspects of this fountain pen lark to interest me was flexible nibs. These nibs give more width on the downstroke when pressure is exerted. I soon found that not many nibs are made with flex these days, especially cheaper pens. Noodler’s Nib Creaper, and their larger Ahab, are exceptions. Other low-price options are F.P.R. Dilli or Guru pens from India, or getting lucky with a vintage pen from eBay. (The Jinhao X450 is advertised as flex but is firm.) I got my Creaper from Pure Pens here in the UK for £12.50.
Emerald Nib Creaper
I really like this pen. After a few week’s use, the Creaper proved itself as a smooth writer that leaves a fine line or a pretty thick line when pushed into flexion. The flex and flow are adjustable by moving the feed and/or nib in/out of the pen. The nib and the hand-made ebonite feed are easily pulled out together for adjustment. I wish all fountain pens were like this.
Noodlers light
I didn’t get printed instructions with my pen, but the splendid Azizah at sent me a copy of the diagrams that come with the Ahab. There is a useful video by Brian of Goulet Pens. Basically: feed out=drier. Nib out=more flex. Tip of feed nearer to nib tip=less flex and drier. The ink is also a variable!
condensation? it went away
The pen is very light so I find it’s better capped and it’s also on the small side. The length is almost conventional, but the thinness makes the pen seem small: a compact appearance. The silver ring on the grip matches the trim on the cap. I’m impressed with the design which makes it disappointing that Noodler’s give little information on their web site. Standard Flex Pen The Nib Creaper was known as the Standard Flex Pen.

The colour of Creaper I chose was the Maximilian Emerald Green Demonstrator. Demonstrator in pen terms means see-through! The translucent models are attractive to me because the ink inside can be seen clearly, hanging about, not going near the nib when you want it to. The whole width of the barrel is used for ink storage, although less than an inch of barrel exists between the feed and the piston. There are thin windows here that are transparent, like the slits on a zoetrope. The rest of the barrel is occupied by the piston control and its internal screw.
enormous flex
The steel (?) nib is similar to the F.P.R. Dilli in that the gap between the tines extends all the way up the nib, which you might suppose gives the possibility of enormous flex. It does, but since steel is harder than gold some pressure is needed whereby the tines separate and dig into the paper. The amount of flex increases with usage, so eventually the digging decreases. The nib also railroads (see pic) which can be minimized by matching a wet ink with a greater flow. Like flex itself, used in calligraphy, railroading also has artistic possibilities so it’s not a completely bad thing. And of course, if you are not intending to write in copperplate, then the Creaper can be used as a normal pen. Any slight flex you unintentionally induce can only make your handwriting more decorative.
Smell? I don’t normally sniff pens—maybe old paperbacks—but the recycled material called vegetal resin that Noodler’s use has put some people off. The smell was slight. After a few months it’s almost gone. I thought it was an OK scent, maybe like a warm photocopier if you remember them. Eno should write a song called Creaper Smell.

Back of the nib – no. Some pens can be used upside down but despite the generous amount of tipping material on the Creaper nib it’s scratchy when used this way and the line left on paper is not much finer. This is not “as designed” of course but sometimes it’s an option.

I put this pen in my pocket and I patted my pocket. It’s insanely good value for what you get: flex, compactness, smooth writing and a hand-cut feed made of hard rubber, not plastic. Another keeper.

Ink used: Diamine Beau Blue on Black n’ Red paper and Noodler’s Golden Brown.
E.T. and pen