It’s time once again for another great giveaway, this time courtesy of Benu Pens. I’ll be giving away two Benu Pens Briolettes.  (You can find the original review here.)

This giveaway will have two winners, and each winner will receive:

  • A Benu Pens Briolette & Matching Pen Stand. (The first winner selected will get to choose which of the above sets they want, and the second winner will receive the other one.)
  • A bottle of ink from Matt’s collection (my choice)
  • A set of Inky Fingers notebooks in your choice of Pocket or Travellers Size

Good luck!

Benu Briolette Giveaway

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Show Notes:


(18 Feb 2018) Correction: In both the video and written review, I mentioned that the Himalaya takes standard international cartridges and converters. It does not. It uses a different style converter, and I was not able to identify the type. The text below has been updated accordingly.

I first learned of Fountain Pen Revolution–a U.S.-based company that sells affordable, Indian-made fountain pens with a wide variety of nib options–when I was still quite new to the fountain pen hobby. I was still in “buy all the things” mode at the time and purchased several pens to experiment with and review.

At the time, I wasn’t blown away by the offerings, which had a few problems. Since that time, I never revisited any of the FPR offerings and as my tastes moved much further toward the higher end of the fountain pen market. With my desire to revisit some less-expensive pen options this season, I was glad when FPR offered to send a couple of the company’s newer pen models for review and giveaway.

The FPR Himalaya is a pen with a relatively nondescript, standard shape made out of bright, vibrant acrylics or even ebonite. The pen comes in four acrylic colors (Saffron Orange, Taj Mahal White, Indigo Blue, and Sindoor Red) and two swirly ebonites (Green and Brown). Nothing about the shape of the pen screams cutting-edge design, but it’s well-constructed, simple, and attractive.

The pen features a bog-standard folded metal clip, the likes of which I’ve seen on several pens made in this area. It’s a sturdy, springy clip, but the clip’s ring extends beyond the edge of the cap just a bit. It’s a very small overhang, but enough to notice if you’re particularly anal retentive like I am.

The cap features a large silver cap band, and takes two full turns to unscrew on smooth threads. Under the cap is a smooth, tapering section with a flange toward the nib. The section is made of the same arylic as the rest of the pen. The pen uses a #5.5 nib, and comes with an ebonite feed. There are several nib options available including: EF, F, and M nibs, with a $3 upcharge for B, 1.1mm Stub, and Flex. My pen came with the FPR steel flex nib.

The Himalaya comes with a converter and can also be converted to an eyedropper-filled pen as well. The threads on the section tenon are long and extremely tight, so with a bit of silicone grease, I’d be fully confident in eyedroppering this pen. The included converter is one of those very inexpensive plunger-style converters and gave me a few problems. I found ink tended to cling to the walls of the converter, and wouldn’t always flow down to the nib. And the plunger-style filling system can be a real jerk sometimes (see the blooper at the end of the video above for what I mean by that.) Unfortunately, as the converter is not of the standard international flavor, it’s not easily replaced. I’d personally recommend this pen only as an eyedropper.

In the hand, the pen is extremely lightweight and pretty comfortable. It’s a touch shorter and narrower than I prefer in my writing instruments, but only by a small bit. The pen can be posted, and it’s a design that I personally prefer to use posted; the cap balances the pen and makes for a more comfortable in-the-hand experience.

If you’ve never tried writing with a steel flex nib on a fountain pen (e.g., Noodler’s or FPR nibs, not steel dip nibs fitted into a fountain pen), it’s probably best that you set your expectations for flex writing appropriately. Most modern steel nibs flex, not by any particular give to the material, but rather by extending the nib slit much further than is normal. The slit on the Himalaya’s flex nib nearly disappears into the section, in fact.

Flexing a steel nib like this required a fair bit of downward pressure. You can get a decent bit of line variation, but it will require effort and going slowly. (And a good writing pad under your page so you don’t scratch up your nice wooden desk through the paper.) When filled as an eyedropper, or with a better converter, I really didn’t have a lot of problems with ink starvation or railroading unless I went very fast, or over-flexed the nib.

On regular writing, though, this pen was a lot of fun to use. It’s got a generous ink flow (likely because of the ebonite feed) and a slight bit of bounce. The nib tip was well adjusted and polished. I was able to write for long periods of time without hand cramps, fatigue, or any problems with ink starvation. Overall, I found this quite an enjoyable everyday writing experience.

And that, really, is where I place steel flex nibs like these in the pantheon of flex: you can get line variation out of them, but I much prefer them for regular writing because of their wet ink flow and bounciness. Don’t expect to get the same kind of flexing experience you’d get from a vintage gold nib or even something like the FPNibs.com semi-flex nibs.

What it is, however, is a very affordable way to experiment with a nib capable of line variation. The FPR Himalaya starts at a very reasonable $29 USD, with an upcharge of $3 for the B, 1.1mm Stub, or Flex nibs. That puts this pen in direct competition with larger-scale manufacturers like TWSBI or Lamy for tradition writing, or smaller companies like Noodler’s for flex writing. The FPR Himalaya still very much feels like a small-batch product, but it is of a much higher quality than any of the Noodler’s flex pens I’ve ever used. It’s also a very affordable way to get your hands on an Ebonite pen if you’ve been wanting to try out ebonite.

At $29-$32, I consider the FPR Himalaya to be a good value. The materials are lovely. The construction quality is good, and the regular writing experience is very good. I would personally ditch the included converter and replace it with something of higher quality or just eyedropper fill the pen. And this is a good way to experiment and get your first taste of flex…just don’t expect a tool for Spencerian calligraphy out of it.

Material: Acrylic
Nib: Steel #5.5 FPR Flex Nib (Steel)
Appointments: Silver-colored
Filling System: Standard International Cartridge/Converter & Eyedropper
Length (Capped): 136.1mm
Length (Uncapped): 121.1mm
Length (Posted): 154.5mm
Section Diameter: 10.4mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 12.3mm
Cap Max Diameter: 14.1mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 11g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter):15g

Ink Flow: 7/10
Ink Starvation: 1/10
Feedback: 2.5/10
Nib Softness: 4/10
Comfort: 6/10

This pen was provided free of charge by Fountain Pen Revolution in exchange for an honest review and giveaway. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed herein are my own. 

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The good folks at Vanness have provided the pen for our next giveaway here on PenHabit.com: The surprising Taccia Spectrum. (You can find my original review of the pen here.) The pen is currently sold out in this color on the Vanness website (as of posting) but is still available in Blue and Red.

As part of this package the winner will receive:

  • A Taccia Spectrum fountain pen in Forest Green with a Medium Sailor-made nib
  • A set of Inky Fingers notebooks in either Travelers or Pocket size
  • Some ink of my choice from my collection

This contest entry system is being run by Gleam.io, and will run from the date of this blog post until 11:59PM on Saturday, February 3.

Taccia Spectrum & Ink Courtesy of Vanness Pens

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I’ve been doing a lot of reviews of items that have been sent to me for review lately. I’m trying to clear out my backlog so I can get to reviewing a few more of my personal pens! But, in the meantime, I wanted to do a quick review of this Diplomat Excellence A PLUS Rhombus Guilloche Lapis that was provided by the US Distributor for Diplomat, Points of Distinction.

I’ve reviewed the Excellence A before, and really liked it.  (I’ve done reviews of the Skyline and the Evergreen.)  The A PLUS is the company’s slight step up in terms of features and price. There are a lot of similarities, so I’ll mainly focus on the differences in this review.

Before I do, though, a quick recap: The Diplomat Excellence A is a very nice pen. Metal-bodied with high-quality lacquer finish, the pen is sturdily built and features a classic styling. Like all Diplomat pens I’ve tried thus far, it comes with a wonderfully-adjusted Jowo-made nib and uses standard international cartridges and long or short converters. It tends to be a bit on the heavier side but is well-balanced, and comfortable in the hand. And all of the diplomat pens I’ve tried up to this point have written like an absolute dream.

The Excellence A PLUS maintains the same classic shape and high construction quality of the regular Excellence A but features a few upgrades. The first is in the finish. The A PLUS comes in a standard glossy black finish and the one provided for this review: the Rhombus Guillouche Lapis Black. This is a lacquer finish unlike any I’ve ever seen. It’s a flat, matte black finish with just enough texture to feel very different. (It reminds me a bit of unpolished ebonite, actually.) Laser-etched into the surface is a series of lines that make pseudo-rhombus-y rectangles. It gives a nice bit of interest to what would otherwise a pretty, but unremarkable, finish.

The clip of the Excellence A PLUS is, unlike its younger brother, hinged and spring-loaded. It’s not the strongest clip in the world (spring-loaded, hinged clips rarely are), but it gives you a lot of clearance to clip the pen to jeans pocket or the cover of a hardbound notebook.

The final major difference between the two pens is in the capping mechanism. The A PLUS has a screw-top pen mechanism that allows the cap to be removed with only a quarter turn. (The Excellence A has a pop-top mechanism.) It’s well-machined and creates a nice tight seal that won’t come loose accidentally–again making it a great option for clipping to your jeans pocket or the cover of a hardbound notebook.

The Excellence A PLUS uses the same #6 Jowo nibs that have appeared on all of the Diplomat pens I’ve tried thus far. This one, however, was my first experience with the fine nib. It’s a pretty standard western fine width but was a touch less smooth than I was expecting based on my previous Diplomat experiences. It was still beautifully adjusted, with a consistent, moderate ink flow and just a touch of pleasant feedback. (It actually reminded me a bit of a Sailor medium nib, but a touch smoother.) It was not, however, the “buttery” smooth feel that I experienced with the medium nibs. I don’t know if that is a difference in the nib tip size, or if I got one that had been adjusted by a different nibmeister or what. In any case, it was still a superb writer, and Diplomat continues to be my go-to answer for when someone wants to know what manufacturer has the best steel nibs.

With the Excellence A’s additional features, it comes as no surprise that this pen comes with a bump in price as well. The Excellence A Evergreen lists for $225. This Excellence A PLUS Rhombus Guilloche Lapis Black lists for $295. This is, in my opinion, too expensive for what you get. I’ve been a big fan of Diplomat’s offerings, but at nearly $300 for a steel-nibbed pen, you’re in competition with some really amazing writers.  Granted, you’ll almost never pay a full list price for this pen from any retailer that carries it, but even still, this pen is in direct competition with amazing offerings like the Pilot Custom 823.

So, I really like this pen. It’s a great writer, it’s attractive, it’s comfortable in the hand with a nicely balanced weight. It’s constructed like a tank and should last a lifetime. It has one of the best steel nibs on the market. It’s just awfully expensive for what you get.

This pen was provided free of charge by Points of Distinction for review and giveaway. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed herein are my own. Stay tuned to Penhabit.com for the giveaway of this pen. 

Material: Metal
Nib: Steel #6 Jowo-made Steel nib, Fine
Appointments: Silver-colored
Filling System: Standard International Cartridge/Converter
Length (Capped): 139.2m
Length (Uncapped): 130.9mm
Length (Posted): 152.4mm
Section Diameter: 11.4mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 13.4mm
Cap Max Diameter: 14.7mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 28g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter):44g

Ink Flow: 6/10
Ink Starvation: 1/10
Feedback: 3.5/10
Nib Softness: 1/10
Comfort: 8/10

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Like all good pen people, I love me a good journal. And I’ve actually been on the lookout for my next journal. I’m nearly finished with my Nanami Paper Seven Seas Writer and need something new to journal in. I’ve also been looking for something a bit…classier than the standard A5-sized notebooks that are out there–something that would feel like the kind of heirloom journal you’d want to keep on the shelf in a fancy library.

That’s why I was excited when Central Crafts, a UK-based retailer of customized paper goods and gifts, reached out to me and offered a journal of my choice from their wide selection to review. I went with the Italian-made Leatherkind Cortona. (Of note, in the video, I regularly say Cortana instead of Cortona…I do live in the land of Microsoft after all, and the name is just too similar to the Windows 10 / Windows Phone digital assistant for me not to mess it up.) It comes in several sizes and colorways, and I opted for the Large (which is closest to A5 size) in navy blue with a caramel-colored piping around the edges.

The journal is beautifully made. It’s made of high-quality, top-grain leather, and is extremely well-constructed. The leather can be customized/embossed, as they did with my initials on this notebook. The binding of the paper portion of the notebook appears to be glue-bound.  I find this a bit disappointing on a notebook that looks this good, but it’s still solid and lays mostly flat. Over time, I suspect the spine will break in a bit more and the notebook will be a lie-flat book to make for easier writing.

The book is filled with a lovely cream-colored paper, which comes lined. There are no page numbers, nor any sort of included bookmark ribbon. (I would have loved for this to come with a ribbon.) The rule is your standard 7mm ruling, which I find perfect for my writing style. The paper is thick and has a nice, pleasant texture. It’s not the super-smooth coated paper of Rhodia or Clairefontaine, but it has a nice, almost parchment-like friction to it.

My only letdown with this notebook is that the paper isn’t terribly friendly to fountain pens. Fine nibs and drier medium nibs do okay, but if you like broader or wetter nibs, you’re probably going to have problems with bleeding and feathering on this paper. Check out some of the photos in the gallery below for examples of what I mean.

This notebook retails at Central Crafts for 29£ (In the video, I incorrectly stated 29€ ), which at the time of writing was just over $39 USD. The construction quality of this notebook is such that I would be happy paying that price…if only the paper were a better fit for my love of fountain pens. As it is, I think I’m going to use this as a part scrapbook, part commonplace book. I’ll have to stick to fine-nibbed pens and rollerballs, but the quality of the notebook is so high that I can’t not use it. I just don’t think it will be my choice for longer journal entry writing, as I like to be able to grab any of my pens and not have to worry about whether or not the ink will bleed through.

This notebook was provided free of charge by Central Crafts at http://centralcrafts.co.uk in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed herein are my own. 

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“What is the best flex nib out there?”

It’s a question I get all. the. time…in various flavors (best flex under $100, best modern flex, best vintage flex, etc…) It’s an impossible question to answer, but one that I suspect will always be top of mind for those folks entering the pen hobby for the first time. New fountain pen users are fascinated by flex. I think it’s because flex is so different than the writing experiences they’re used to. It’s something you can’t come close to replicating with a ballpoint or rollerball. It’s unique, and unusual, and novel, and so it is one of the first avenues of exploration for the FP users.

The problem is that flex is so personal, so unusual, and so variable that it’s impossible to talk about it anything approaching a standardized way. What makes vintage flex so good? Why is modern flex so bad? What is springiness? How do you rate the flexibility of nib? How important is ink flow? Why can’t they make modern nibs like the vintage ones, etc. Nobody can agree on terminology or classifications. And you find vast differences in the feel of a flex experience, even among identical pens from the same brand. (I cover many of those topics  in my blog post, “Why Can’t Modern Manufacturers Recreate Vintage Flex?“) So, I never quite know how to answer these questions. Because the answer is almost always “it depends.”  And then I encourage folks to try to go to a pen show where they can try them in person.

Now, I love a flexy nib. My everyday handwriting, which is a loopy cursive, is well-suited to a flexy, bouncy nib, so I keep my eye out for good flex nibs where I can. I have some vintage flex, which I love; most, however, are in vintage pens I don’t want to carry around with me. They’re too fragile. (And too expensive. And almost irreplaceable.) So, the hunt for a modern flex nib continues.  There are a few options for modern flex out there, but none of them are great.  One of the best options for modern flex that I’ve discovered over the last several years can be found at FPNibs.com. This site, run by a gentleman in Spain, features a la carte nibs from manufacturers like Jowo (including TWSBI-specific nibs), Kaweco, and Aurora. In addition to selling a wide variety of nibs, FPNibs.com also offers nibmeister services: special grinds, adjustments, and added flex.

These added-flex nibs, properly labeled as semi-flex on the website, are 14k gold nibs that have had the shoulders shaved down and the feed adjusted to support flexible writing. And they’re good. Really good. When people ask me for the best modern flex experience, this is the nib I point them toward. I’ve taken my FPNibs.com semi-flex nibs with me to pens shows and meetups, and nearly everyone who has used it expressed surprise at how well the nib works.

Now, is it the same as a vintage nib?  No, not really. (Although to be fair, there’s no one experience with vintage nibs. Every vintage nib is different.) But these nibs flex without significant force being required. The ink flow is able to keep up with deliberate flex writing. They’ve got a decent bit of snapback. And they’re smooth and pleasant to use. All in all, these are great nibs. I’ve never chatted with the FPNibs folks. They’ve never contacted me. I’ve paid for every single one of my FPNibs.com nibs out of my own pocket, and I have every intention of buying more. They’re just that good.

You can find them here:  https://www.fpnibs.com/123-14k-semiflex

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