End of the road 

18 Aug

Pens were such a fun hobby for me and I throughly enjoyed the things I learned. More than these, it is the people I met while pursuing this fancy that I will always remember.

I don’t see myself blogging about pens anytime soon though. I’ve turned a new page and it is with new instruments that I must write my stories.

To the folks who thought this blog was useful, thanks for dropping by. 

In stasis

7 Dec

I have not managed to generate any new material for this channel in a few months. There are a couple of pens that I have yet to write about but sadly, I lack the breathing room to put together both prose and pictures.

My life and living continue to exact an unforgiving pace so this space will have to remain in suspended animation for the foreseeable future.

I’ve had the great joy of making pen friends from all over the world via this blog. However fascinating pens may be, these cannot ever eclipse the gift of kind (if not colorful) souls that one meets along the way.

Thank you for your patronage and patience. I don’t quite know when a reboot will occur but you can be certain that I have not signed a DNR just yet.

An anniversary conspiracy

30 Sep IMG_0084

Our story begins with Leigh who being the sneaky person that she is, quietly sourced a length of Tibaldi Impero celluloid rod with the help of FPN regular Thomas (TR) Hall. TR ships the stuff from an undisclosed location to the Edison Pen Company where Brian Gray secures the secret stash until Leigh sends word as to what is to be done with it.


I had no hint of this devious scheme until over dinner one lazy evening, Leigh asked me what I thought of a custom his-and-hers set. Truthfully, I was unsure. I’ve had no meaningful experience with Edison, only two brief encounters with a Collier and a Beaumont. When she showed me a picture of TR’s Menlo that Brian made from the Tibaldi stock, all hesitation vanished and I caved faster than a rundown mine.


TR Hall's Menlo in Tibaldi celluloid. Eyedropper. Rhodium trim.

TR Hall’s Menlo eyedropper. (Photo by Brian Gray)


Leigh of course, already knew what she wanted. I had to choose something that would fit my Stay Puft Marshmallow mitts comfortably and so I asked Brian for help. He gave me some options and I decided his Glenmont might fit the bill. I sent an email finalizing the order which Brian replied to with his usual can-do vibe, but he also shared that there was enough stock to possibly turn three pens if we so chose. As the prayer goes, lead me not into temptation for I can very well find it myself.



(Photo grabbed from artofpen.com)

(Photo grabbed from artofpen.com)


He mentioned though that depending on the models we wanted, the third pen might feature celluloid on the barrel alone. Leigh and I agreed that the material was too good to waste but neither of us wanted a black cap on any of the pens, not against celluloid so rich in character. Parker’s Big Red offered inspiration. I thought the hat-trick would be possible if two of the pens sported black ends just like the iconic Duofolds of old. To give Brian even more room to work with, Leigh chose the smaller Beaumont Pneumatic to complete the trio. Brian agreed that if both the Glenmont and Beaumont were given ebonite finials, sections and blind caps, Leigh’s Menlo was assured of being completely self-colored. With that settled, all that was left was to wait six weeks until we received the shipping notice from Ohio.


On to the Glenmont.



It’s big, for starters. Capped, it exceeds the length of an MB 149 or a flagship Souverän. But unlike an M1000, this one is quick on its feet. It balances just slightly behind its section, a feat made possible by the lack of a metal piston mechanism in its barrel. The Glenmont also posts easily, deeply and securely. Doing so adds a bit of weight but it does not diminish the pen’s agility in any way.


A Montblanc 149 and TWSBI AL give you an idea of the Glenmont’s size. It isn’t a behemoth, but you can hardly call it petite.




Uncapped, the 149, Decapod and Glenmont are about the same size. The Montblanc though has earned the nickname “Chubby.”

The hourglass section guides the fingers intuitively to a comfortable grip, while the threads and step near the barrel join never intrude or abrade. Seams are all precisely dressed and contoured, and no casting or machine marks are apparent anywhere. Some Germans and a few Italians could learn something about fit and finish from this pen.


The German plays it straight. The Japanese decided to go conical. Yankees seem to love their curves.


Not even Janesville made a filler this handsome.


The vacuum filler may have been inspired by the beloved Parker Vacumatic but this clearly isn’t a NOS or vintage filling unit. It looks to be all brass and exquisitely machined. In fact, you can feel every nuance of the diaphragm as you cycle the plunger. Nothing wiggles or wanders and I can’t ever recall using a Vacumatic that felt so precise. (And yes, it sucks in ink the way Black Holes devour planets.)


She might look a little plain, but wait ’til you see her dance!


I asked for a Medium nib and what they fitted was a bi-tone 18k model that is blessed with a hint of softness. Set to flow wet, it careens across paper like nobody’s business, laying down stubbish lines but with the smoothness of a round tip. Leigh says Medium nibs are boring and she’s usually right. Not this time though, as this has to be the most enjoyable M I’ve ever owned.


Every inch of the pen feels warm to the touch in the way made possible only by organic materials such as ebonite and celluloid. Uncapping the pen sends the inimitable signature of camphor wafting around your space, reminding you yet again that this isn’t your daddy’s Papermate Flair. Modern acrylics have come a long way, but they still can’t match these timeless materials when it comes to creating a full sensory experience.

Capped. Photo by Brian Gray, Edison Pen Company.

Transitions from finial down to blind cap are as close to perfect as you’ll ever get. The guys from Milan (Ohio, not Italy) know how to build a proper pen. (Photo by Brian Gray)


In itself, this unique Glenmont is an exquisite article. But what makes it truly profound is that some of pen-dom’s nicest people combined their efforts to help a pen couple celebrate a milestone in a most special way.


Thanks to Brian Gray and TR Hall for making all of this possible.

(If you want to check out the Menlo and Beaumont that Brian made for Leigh, go HERE. )

Skyline Redux

2 Sep

My first vintage pen was supposed to be a double jewelled mustard “51”. Regrettably, my Veuve Clicquot tastes were shackled by a Budweiser budget so I happily ended up with a jet black Eversharp Skyline Executive instead. The Skyline had a distinctively streamlined look, while its nib was my initiation to the world of flex. It wasn’t intuitive but after cracking its code, my lines could swell from F to BB with ease. Unfortunately, my pen focus shifted and Japanese brands sentenced the Skyline to long-term storage. The time soon came when a grail needed funding so I sold several pens, the Eversharp included.


Fast forward to about two weeks ago. I discover that a local pen buddy is now a dealer for the Wahl-Eversharp pen company, as revived by Syd “Wahlnut” Saperstein. I message Kailash who tells me his maiden shipment is arriving in a few hours. Leigh and I rush to pick up our loot that night, and I run solely with my new prize for almost two weeks before even thinking of reviewing it on this space.



My modern Skyline comes from the Classic range. Compared to the Executive I once had, this one is a touch shorter but looks a lot more sartorial. Its silhouette remains true to the original save for two things. It lacks a filling lever and the barrel now sports a trim ring. The cap is a reprise of the Radial Engraved pattern from the ’45 – ‘48 Presentation Skylines and can understandably be mistaken for its vintage predecessor. Finish and execution are astonishing with even the famous Double Check hallmark being purposefully retained.

Uncapping the pen reveals gold trim on the section’s flare, a feature absent on the Skylines of old. The nib wears ornamentation that draws from Wahl’s Art Deco roots, which stands in stark contrast to the almost bare décor on the vintage nibs.


That isn’t tarnish on the nib. Ink smears are inevitable when you actually use your pens.

Inking the pen takes some figuring out. No seams are visible near the barrel threads and attempting to turn the section causes nothing to budge. It dawns on me that the barrel trim ring might hold the key and true enough, the ring marks a blind cap. Twisting this free reveals a piston knob. I later learn that this is actually a converter and owing to the pen’s redesign, long International carts are your only option if you don’t want to fill from a bottle.

There is but one nib size, a Fine-Medium, currently available. It is not a true semi-flex by any stretch but it is as supple as Nakaya’s Soft Medium or Pilot’s Soft Fine-Medium. Slight pressure readily yields sufficient line variation and throughout weeks of writing and doodling, I feel no tooth or snags, only a hint of feedback like the Japanese nibs I love.


Certain that this is an OEM nib from the Orient, I ask about the part’s origins. It shocks me just a bit to learn that not only is it German, it is coated stainless steel and not gold! I have previously handled stainless nibs gifted with a bit of spring, but nothing like this. It feels more controlled or deliberate in its cadence. The snapback seems calibrated instead of being a mushy afterthought. The writing performance is familiar and novel all at once. I cannot explain how Wahl-Eversharp accomplish this feat. The long sloping shoulders may partially explain the majix but I’m sure there’s a lot more voodoo going on. Bottom line: it provides a wonderful writing experience.


An old chevron pattern Wahl flat-top chats with our new friend.

Handling is lithe and its long section readily welcomes a host of hand sizes and grips. Some may find the unposted Skyline just a bit too light though. If you so choose to post, the cap mounts deeply and securely but shifts the pen’s balance drastically to the rear. Personally, I wouldn’t post but if it’s your pen, then it’s your rules.


What scale means to pen geeks. From left to right: Omas 556/S Brevetto, Montblanc 1912 Heritage, 2014 Wahl Eversharp Skyline Classic, Bexley Submariner Grande Butterscotch, Sheaffer Autograph Band Snorkel, Parker UK Aerometric Duofold

Now for the $200 question: is it worth the coin? Sticker price on this model is only a few notches south of a pair of Benjamins so it isn’t exactly inexpensive. With vintage Skylines remaining available and affordable, what does this redux bring to the table?


The bottom pen is an original blue Skyline. The newer palladium capped black Classic doesn’t seem too different.

Given what I’ve seen and learned from the new pen people in my area, this is what I think. Today’s converts may want the writing experience that only a nib can bring, but seek as rich a history and pedigree as possible within a fairly attainable price point. They desire generous doses of flair but eschew having to deal with shrinking polystyrene, cracked nibs, ossified sacs and unexpected leaks. With all this in mind, the new Skyline gives them precisely what they want without exacting unreasonable tolls.
It isn’t La Grande Dame Brut. But if Gentleman Jack is ample tipple, this will wet your whistle.

(All pens other than the new Skyline appear courtesy of leighpod)


It looks old but it isn’t

14 Aug


A pen friend just became the local distributor of a revived and revered brand. Naturally, we supported his new venture and I was quite happy to be one of his first two customers not long after his shipment arrived.

Details soon. I promise.

Two brothers (and a gatecrasher)

5 Aug

These two share one name and not much else. One looks genteel and refined. The other is dark and edgy, a certified bad boy in designer Goth.

The guy on the right didn't have an invite. I'll let Leigh talk about him some other time.

The guy on the right didn’t have an invite. I’ll let Leigh talk about him some other time.

The respectable member of the brood is the Ogiva. Its torpedo silhouette is a 1927 design, launched at a time when Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington and the Gershwins were all the rage. Style was a non-negotiable commodity and the Ogiva never had to plead for anyone’s sympathies. Over decades, not once did it lose its sense of élan and OMAS have made it available in various sizes and materials, keeping it tasteful and attractive regardless of what fashions prevailed.


OMAS draped this particular pen in a wonderful celluloid material called Saft Green. Granting a slight nod to modern tastes, rose gold was chosen for this Ogiva’s decor. The pink hues cast a warm and more welcoming look compared to the rather vibrant moods of yellow gold. While the rose gold rage will fade soon enough, this treatment, like a pair of bespoke Balmorals, will survive the ebb and flow of fads.

One will dance if it likes your tune. The other headbangs.

One will dance if it likes your tune. The other headbangs.

The nib is an Extra Fine Extra Flessible which I think is the best width from among Omas’s soft nibs. I’ve handled their Fine Extra Flessible before and while it had spring in it step, its line variation was more modest than a convent-bred schoolgirl. (While the nuns were about, of course.) The EF on the other hand is capable of a bit more flair but not along the lines of a vintage semi-flex. Snapback is good and thankfully, the feed never struggles to match the whims of the nib. (If you know box-stock Italian pens, this is nothing short of miraculous.)

Then we have the offspring from a totally different era. This one doesn’t swing to bebop but bangs to the likes of LL Cool J, the Notorious B.I.G. and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The 360 came about in 1996, in the middle of a decade committed to insane (read: tacky) opulence and a worldwide obsession with technology and the Internet. Not exactly an ideal period for writing instruments, let alone new designs. But OMAS boldly took up the cause that the Triad Pen Company unsuccessfully championed in the 1930s and introduced a pen with a triangular cross-section.

Round isn't the only shape out there.

Round isn’t the only shape out there.

Of course, the immediate question is, “Why?” Round and even faceted shapes worked so well for so many hands. What did a triangular shape bring to an admittedly cramped table? A few years ago, I would have said, “Nothing.” But a pen friend I respect tremendously told me that the 360 is the most ergonomic pen she had ever used. Now she has an impressive collection of really nice pens and doesn’t impress easily. At all. So her unusually high praise is what I considered a clue. Of course, she was right. The 360 shape doesn’t look like it’ll work but if your grip is close to what the schoolmarms insisted on, it’ll fit you like a pair of well-worn Luchesses.

Look closer and you'll see that black isn't always completely so.

Look closer and you’ll see that black isn’t always completely so.

This model is wrought from cotton resin, which thankfully makes it a little more accessible than its older sibling. It is not close to being as rich or warm as celluloid, but OMAS cleverly make up for this by etching an intricate diamond weave pattern into both barrel and cap. Ruthenium is wisely employed to trim this pen and the overall effect is dark without being flat. The resin retains some transparency and if you hold the pen to the light, you see not just the ink sloshing about but also a slight aubergine hue lurking beneath the material. It is an über cool nuance and one of the small details that set OMAS apart from many other makers.


The nib is a standard firm Fine. Well, firm isn’t completely accurate. It has a very (and I mean very) slight bit of give, which feels pleasant on paper. It also possesses a hint of feedback. Some may not like this but this is exactly how I prefer my fine nibs to behave. Flow is dry-ish but not arid, and gives some interesting variation to its cross-strokes. Compared to the Arte Italiana Noir that I wrote about recently, this one gave me no trouble at all.

Even the nib ornamentation is a little passive aggressive on this one.

Even the nib ornamentation is a little passive aggressive on this one.

So there you have the tale of two brothers. One struts about in Battistoni threads. The other dons Zilli leather before mounting a Ducati. It’s hard to choose between these two but luckily, I don’t have to.

(The Vintage LE Paragon in Arco celluloid makes its guest appearance courtesy of Leigh.)

A caped crusader…Italian style

16 Jul image

In a pile of Western pens, it’s always easy to spot an Omas. They just seem to be the most elegantly coiffed in the bunch, sporting details that belie an inner playfulness. Whether it’s a gemstone roller on a clip, ornate nib decor, or vivid colors swirling deep within layered celluloid, these subtle touches deftly skirt the lines that divide drab, dapper and gaudy.

However, when Omas announced they were doing a stealth pen I cringed and wondered if their expression would defile everything their pedigree stood for. After all, Omas are masters of pomp that never offends. They veer away from the limits of brash and leave concepts like the Chaos pen in the able hands of Montegrappa. Would their Dark Knight prove to be their champion or their undoing?



Enter the Arte Italiana Noir, a Milord in this case. It may be kid brother to the Paragon but scrawny it is not. It is about the size of a Souveran M800 or a 146 Le Grande. Not obscenely huge but a fist full of pen nonetheless. Signature Omas design cues frame the Noir – faceted shape, roller clip, Greek key motif on the cap band, and the trademark O inlay on the cap finial. These are all hallowed hallmarks of the brand’s DNA but the craftsmen of Bologna added a dash or two of spice to the genetic mix.



Its finishing is one its most obvious distinctions. Watchmakers reserve guilloche to embellish the dials and movements of their high-line timepieces, and Omas chose this regal treatment for both barrel and cap. The pattern is evenly applied across all facets and surfaces, with no nicks or blemishes found. I am unsure if this was molded into the resin or executed by machine prior to finishing. However this dark magic was conjured, the results stand above the unadorned matte or satin surfaces of the lesser stealth pens in the market.




The trim is nothing short of spectacular. I’ve seen various flavors of ruthenium plating, ranging in hue from dark pewter to glossy black nickel. The plating on the Noir is closer to a smoky shade of charcoal without overdosing on sheen. This complements the guilloche perfectly and permits the engraving on the metal bits to emerge cleanly yet discretely.



Gripping section is thankfully rendered in resin (I dislike the feel of metal in this area) with the transition from barrel to the section being effortless. The threads never intrude on the writing experience and the balance of the pen is spot on. The bias favors the nib ever so slightly, which makes handling easy and effortless. Filling is done via an international cartridge or the included converter. I know real men use pistons but C/C’s are far easier to clean and maintain.


My copy came with a factory Stub, and here is where the guardian of Gotham meets Bane. From the get-go, this nib was temperamental and rather dry. I figured I could eventually coax it to settle down. I spent several hours aligning the tines, massaging the rough spots with a bit of lapping film, and flossing the slit with a brass shim. No matter what I did, ink flow remained erratic and the tips taunted me with their incessant clicking, indicating that the gap might still be too tight.

With my DIY options running low, I stripped the feed and nib and rolled up my sleeves. The feed was scrubbed with a soapy water solution, rinsed and then cleaned in an ultrasonic tank. I balanced the tines while the nib as off-feed, working the shoulders gently until the tips aligned. I heat-set the feed to the nib, and reseated the whole mess into the section while chanting every prayer I knew to the gods of pendom. The improvements were dramatic but sadly, insufficient to give me the reliability I demand in a daily driver.

If this were a Japanese writer, I’d be severely disappointed. But I’ve long accepted that the dashing good looks of Italian pens are often accompanied by peculiar quirks. These are part of the ownership experience and with some professional help, are easily overcome.

Now if I can only find John Mottishaw’s email address…


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