A Surprising Joy

It’s not often I write a pen review — let’s be honest, it’s almost never — mostly because there are so many reviewers out there. However, in this particular case, I feel impelled to share my thoughts.

About a month ago, I realized that I no longer had an orange pen in my “Under $250” category. I can’t have a pen rainbow without orange. To try to fix that issue, I solicited some suggestions from my lovely local peeps in the DC Metro Pen Crew.

I received a lot of suggestions, and the Pilot Custom 74 is the one I ultimately decided on. By sheer coincidence, I had a birthday coupon for Pen Chalet, so that’s who I ordered from.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to love it. I thought it would be perfectly adequate, and fill a void. Perhaps a pen to rotate out at a later date once I found a truly spectacular orange pen.

Pilot Custom 74 in its box.
A fairly plain pen, but that cap hides a real delight.

However, once it arrived and I’d inked it — with Diamine Pansy — I was pleasantly surprised. And with each consecutive use, I like it better. I have it with a Fine nib, and it glides across paper in the most delightful way. It approaches TWSBI 580 nibs in wetness.

I even found myself reluctant to clean it out at the end of the week. I wanted to keep it inked, to keep using it, which almost never happens. I’m usually happy enough to use whatever pens I have for the next week that I don’t mind putting away my pens from the previous week. It’s a testament to how much I enjoy using the Custom 74.

If you like feedbacky nibs, the Custom 74 is not for you. But if you like buttery smooth nibs, I highly recommend it. And this is coming from someone who prioritizes pen appearance over function. While the Custom 74 isn’t the most beautiful pen in the world, its function makes it divine. I’m definitely happy I bought it. I wouldn’t even rule out the possibility of another in the future, maybe with an Extra Fine nib.

Día de Muertos, Pen Realized

I’m back with post three, so you know what that means. My pen arrived! If you have read my previous posts (1, 2), I suggest you do so to know how this pen came to be. Be forewarned, there is A LOT of pen porn in this post. And you can click/tap any image to view it larger. I take no responsibility for pen envy, pen lust, or pen purchases resulting from the content in this post.

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Another “Step Up” Pen

As I stated in my TWSBI post, the Kaweco Sport series is another contender for best “step up” pen. I know several people who absolutely adore the Sport series, and I’ve come across photos of truly impressive collections.

I really like the non-satin finish metal-bodied Sports for their weight and durability. The nibs for the entire series are decent and come in a wide range of sizes, but the TWSBI nibs are definitely better.

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Pen Opinions Change

Nearly 3 years ago, I wrote the third installment to my Fountain Pen 101 series: Where to Start (With Pens). In it, I recommended the Pilot Metropolitan and Platinum Preppy as the best starter pens. I also promoted the Lamy Safari as the best “step up” pen.

While I stand by my assertions about the Preppy and Metropolitan, I’ve changed my mind about the Safari. This is because 2 years ago, I tried a TWSBI Diamond 580AL. In my opinion, it is by far the better “step up” pen. I now own 11 of the 580 series pens (full sized and mini), and I love them! In fact, if some freak occurrence were to lose me my collection, I’d likely just buy a few 580s and call it quits.

A quick note before jumping into the meat of this post. There is a third contender for best “step up” pen: The Kaweco Sport series. I’d put it as the second best, due to price and nib selection, and should have a post about it in the next week or two.

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An 18111 Commission

Mid last year, I reached out to Yoshi Nakama of 18111 Pens about commissioning a custom pen. As the DC Pen Show was only a few weeks away, we agreed to discuss it at the show. At the time, I hoped to get a pen themed to my Exalted Bloodlines series.

I eagerly sought him out at the show. However, when I showed him the ideas I had in mind, he warned me it may not be doable.

The designs I showed Mr. Nakama at the DC Pen Show.
Left to right: My design idea for the rollstopper, the blood drop I wanted scattered around the pen, and the moon and star I wanted on the top of the cap.

The proposed roll stopper design, the blood drop I wanted scattered across the pen, and the moon and star I wanted on the top of the cap all have “sharp corners.” Apparently, 3D printing and laser engraving can’t produce sharp corners at that size.

However, I hoped we could reach a compromise with a modified design that I liked and could be executed. I agreed to modify the design before sending Mr. Nakama the files. He warned me that his waiting list was about 3 months long. Granted, considering the year+ waiting lists many pen makers have right now, 3 months is hardly an issue.

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Green Nib Update

I mentioned in my 2018 DC Pen Show post that I purchased a green nib from Hinze Pen Company to match my Green Ivies pen from 18111. At the time, I thought I was purchasing an anodized nib. Turns out, it’s lacquered steel, which explains my experience. At the show, I was warned by a few people that colored nibs tend to experience flaking. Sadly, that warning held true for my nib.

I waited a while to write this update, because I was hoping that I could give you a positive result. At first it seemed as though the flaking was minor, and, if it had stayed like that, I could have lived with it.

With the first and second cleaning (both within the first month), a bit of green flaked off either side of the nib slit on the outer edge of the tines. It was noticeable, but it wasn’t really obvious, so I hoped that that would be the end of the flaking, and I’d have a good nib.

However, with the most recent cleaning, I decided to change the color in my pen. I found, as I cleaned it, that the ink was being particularly stubborn. After 10+ minutes of flushing water through it, I decided to pop it in my ultrasonic cleaner.

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Stipula Etruria Prisma 88 Comparative Review

Last year I wrote about my Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88 and followed it up with an update. It’s one of my favorite pens, so when the Stipula Etruria Prisma 88 Magma was announced, I snapped one up.

Now that my Magma is back in action, I’m writing a comparative review of the two. I couldn’t find anything about the Rainbow when it first came out, and there doesn’t seem to be anything about the Magma, so hopefully, this will help anyone considering purchasing either of them.

Backstories

If you know the history behind these two pens in my collection, feel free to skip down to the main review.

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Regalia Writing Labs Sequel Nib Review

Collage of close ups of the Sequel nib

I’ve wanted one of Regalia Writing Labs‘ Sequel Nibs ever since Ralph shared the first photo of one. Part of my interest was based on the uniqueness of the nib, and part was a desire to support Ralph in his continued nib tinkering and modification. I’m very interested to see where his efforts take him.

Unfortunately, he teased us all for a while before making the nibs available, and then, only at shows. They’re still (to the best of my knowledge) only available at shows or via Instagram flash sales.

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Franklin-Christoph Firma Flex Notebook

I’ve been searching for my “perfect notebook” almost since I started using fountain pens. Every notebook I tried had at least one problem (in my opinion, I’m sure people would disagree with me). I’d just about given up hope of finding my “perfect notebook” when I stumbled across the Franklin-Christoph Firma-Flex Journal Notebooks.

The Search

When I started using fountain pens, I realized I could no longer just pick up any notebook I wanted to. So began my notebook search. And, of course, the elements that make up my “perfect notebook” have changed over the course of my search.

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The Montegrappa Fortuna Saga

With one exception, my experiences with fountain pens have been fantastic. Today I’m going to tell you about that exception. Before I do, however, I want you to keep something in mind. I vacillated for weeks between sharing this story and keeping it to myself. I don’t want it to read as a smear on Motegrappa. What I want you to take away from this story is the amazing customer service offered by Cary Yeager of Kenro Industries.

Montegrappa Fortuna Heartwood Pear

I bought my Montegrappa Fortuna Heartwood Pear (FHP) on November 11 at Bertram’s Inkwell‘s yearly trunk show. I’d been eyeing the pen for a while. It’s beautiful. Cary had one at his table with the nib size I wanted, so I bought it. And so began the FHP saga.

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