Category Archives: Pens

ensso Piuma Super Minimal Aluminum Fountain Pen–Initial Impressions

The ensso Piuma is a great pen for three years ago. In 2017, though, I’m not sure how it fits into the market.

The Piuma came in padded black cardboard box with the ensso name stamped on the top. The pen was packed tight enough that I had a hard time getting it out of the foam. (Not a good initial impression, but the pen was definitely secure in the box.)

The ensso logo a decent look at the pan’s finish.

The Piuma is a good looking pen. I chose the black aluminum version with a black steel nib and every one who’s seen it likes the black on black look. In keeping with the “Super Minimal” concept It is a basic cigar shape with no clip. It is 140 mm (5.51 inches) long when capped and 128 mm (5.03 inches) long when uncapped. Because the pen is designed not to post, it is right at the edge of too small to be comfortable for my taste, but my budding pen addict colleague liked how it felt and wrote.

The ensso Piuma.

The Bock #6 nib is smooth and well tuned and although the pen’s black finish is quite slippery, which my colleague also noted, I like the lip at the end of the section. The shaped section puts it ahead of my Namisu Nova Minimal fountain pen which had a fairly fat and slippery section.

Detail of the Bock nib and the lip at the end of the section. The discoloration is the remains of leaked LAMY Petrol.

It is also a very light pen for its size: 1.12 ounces (32 grams) capped and .83 ounces (23 grams) uncapped. I imagine that once the slippery finish breaks in a bit it will be a good pen for longer writing sessions.

The only issue I’ve had, besides getting it out of the packaging, is that in the jostling of my morning commute it leaked ink all over section giving me LAMY Petrol fingers when I started to write with it. I checked the tightness of the feed and nib unit and the problem wasn’t repeated on the commute home.

My other problem at this point is where to put this pen in the market. It is of a style of machined pen that was a big deal a few years ago, but now seems almost retro. Even dubbing it as “minimal” reminds me of pens I already own including one that is nearly identical to the Piuma.

A pen configured the same as mine sells for $79 retail on the ensso website. This seems to me to put it in an odd spot in the market. It is too expensive to be a starter fountain pen and there are cheaper options–TWSBI 580s for example–with more ink capacity for people interested in taking the next step down the fountain pen rabbit hole.

I got mine via a Kickstarter campaign for US $45 (not including shipping) and that seems to be a better price point for a pen of this kind. It looks cool and is comfortable to write with and it does turn heads, but it may be out of date.

That said, these are just initial impressions and the Piuma is now part of my pen testing rotation. I’ll give it a proper review in six months or so once we’ve had the time to get to know each other better.



Cleaning and Refilling and Retiring

Not a lot happened today (although that will change tomorrow). Spent part of today cleaning pens and deciding which ones to retire. In the end I chose the cheapest because they were the most high maintenance.

One pen got refilled with the same ink (which I count as “cleaning” the pen) and another got retired. A third got refilled with an ink I’ve had for a while but haven’t actually tried.

The pen that got retired was one of my Noodler’s Ahab pens. I like the pen, but find Noodler’s pens to be too high maintenance for my taste.

I also discovered an ink sample I got a long time ago and filled one of my cheap pens with it.

Along the way I took and processed some photos for future reviews on this site. Couldn’t be bothered to write them yet, though.


Monteverde Impressa–Initial Impressions

Note: The Monteverde Impressa receiving initial impressions today was kindly donated by Pen Chalet. It’s arrival in Japan prompted the following conversation with She Who Must Be Obeyed:

SWMBO–Here’s your package. What is it?
Me–It’s a fountain pen! (Ode to Joy plays from out of nowhere.)
SWMBO–How much money did it cost?
Me–Nothing! (Ta-Da! sound.) It was donated by Pen Chalet. It only cost me my soul.
SWMBO–Good. As long it wasn’t charged to our credit card.

Something like that.

The Monteverde Impressa (Pearl Silver with Blue Trim) I received today is the first Monteverde pen I’ve ever tried. I’ve only used it for a few hours, but I already like it.

It’s not the style of pen I’d choose for myself, especially because I’m still coming to terms with the square cap on the round body, but the the pearl silver looks great and hides finger prints well. I also like the metallic, cobalt blue furniture.

The Monteverde Impressa. Great color, but not sure about that squarish cap.

There were some odd issues when I tried to fill it the first time–I usually fill with the nib and converter attached–but that may be a testament to Sailor’s crappy new ink bottles rather than than the pen itself. In the end had to fill the converter and then attach it to the feed.

The steel F nib is smooth with a bit of tooth. At 42 grams  (1.5 ounces) it is a rather heavy pen, especially when posted, but it’s still comfortable to use. Unposted, it’s as long as my TWSBI Diamond 580, but a portion of that is the larger nib which make the body and section shorter.

The section is 9 mm wide, which puts it right at the edge of too thin for my taste, but I like the ridge around the bottom of the section. It provides a bit of girth and keeps my fingers from gripping the nib.

Although it is a metal pen covered in some sort of enamel paint, it doesn’t feel cold or slippery.

Detail of the nib and feed, next a small writing sample on an Inky Fingers Currently Inked notebook.

My only issues at this point are aesthetic. Although the nib writes well, I’m not sure it needs “MONTEVERDE” printed twice on it. Also, the pearl silver finish has a couple marks that look like scratches, but may actually be flaws in the finish.

Then there’s that square cap. (More on that and the overall look in a future review.)

The hinged clip is terrific, but I’m not sure about the metal screw I can see inside the cap. Since fountain pens tend to leak into the cap in some form or another, I’m worried about corrosion.

The pen seems to be targeted at people interested in trying a fountain pen for the first time and I was pleased to see it came with a converter as well as two small international cartridges. This allows the new user to try the pen and then move on to bottled ink/inky fingers without having to buy more stuff for the pen. The box it came with was also impressive, but seems to be overkill for a $27 pen. I say get rid of the box and make it a sub $25 pen.

The Impressa is now in my rotation and I’ll do a long term review in six months or so. Until then, thanks again to Pen Chalet for their generous donation.


Fear of Missing Out on Cash

I’ve heard it argued, from many sources, that one of the reasons people become pen addicts is the inability to resist the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

A new product comes available, probably via Kickstarter, and you rush to get it. Then another one comes out and you rush to get that, too. You’re afraid you won’t have something that people you’ve never met have and are talking about on podcasts. If it’s a fountain pen, you need ink, so you rush to get the newest ink. (If it’s Kingdom Note ink, then you’ve probably acquired that from me, their unofficial global distributor.)

Suddenly you find you’ve got more pens and ink than you can use and you’ve also figured out which ones you don’t like and they’ve ended up in pen cases and boxes while you acquire new pens that you actually use, at least for a short time.

Eventually, though, you have to get rid of stuff and that’s when things get complicated. You know, for example, you don’t like the clear Kaweco Classic Sport you bought and used a couple times, but you suddenly can’t part with it because you’re not sure how much you should charge for it.

You’re not only afraid that no one will want it if you put it up for sale, which is kind of embarrassing, you’re also afraid you’ll miss out on one or two dollars if you charge less than it’s worth which will make  you feel foolish.

Intellectually you understand that any loss you take between what you paid and what you sell for counts as a kind of “rental fee” for the time you used the pen, but the emotional part of you is afraid of missing out. You want your money back and you’d rather have nothing for the pen than miss out on getting what the pen is worth.

In my case, I’ve got fifteen pens to sell, including an OMAS Ogiva, a couple Pilot vanishing points (including one from 1964 and a couple “faceted” versions) and a few others, but now I’m stuck on figuring out what to charge. Or, more accurately, I’m stuck on not actually wanting to get rid of them even if I don’t use them and I’m using price as an excuse.

That is part of addiction: knowing the right thing to do and then not doing it.  And then acquiring another pen because of the fear of missing out, even though it’s the wrong thing to do.

The 18th Mitsukoshi Fountain Pen Festival

It was the food that made me mad and that probably jaded my reaction to today. Well, that and the long wait.

To understand what’s wrong with the Mitsukoshi Fountain Pen Festival (and the Maruzen version, for that matter) you have to imagine the oldest, most prestigious department store in your town or city holding an annual festival featuring socks.

The store invites a few makers who demonstrate different techniques for making socks, and who will fix your worn out socks if you’re lucky enough to get an appointment, they may even offer a Sock Festival exclusive pair of socks, but mostly what’s being sold is stock from the store and it’s being sold by the clerks who sell it every day. They can recite materials and manufacturing techniques and statistics and even let you handle some of the material but they do so without passion. They have a product, they sell it, but it’s no more important to the store than the food being sold nearby or the fine China on the other side of the festival space.

Today, to get to the Fountain Pen Festival, I had to walk through a large food event that brought dozens and dozens of noisy people. The food displays ended right across the walking path from the fountain pen festival but the noise traveled quite far. During a special fountain pen art display, and short speech by the head of Pelikan Japan, the speakers had to use microphones to speak to the dozen or so people gathered to participate or listen whilst behind the audience food salesman hawked their wares.

And, of course, pictures were not allowed.

Despite this, I set out to have a good time, and tried to crash the Sailor pen experts repair line to get my Nagasawa Profit’s nib straightened. He sent me to a different counter to get an appointment. Although it was noon, my appointment was for 3:15. This wouldn’t have bothered me except I was pretty sure that in the time it took me to fill out my name on the card he could have straightened the nib and been done with me. I was annoyed enough that I went to Maruzen for lunch (yes, I had lunch at at bookstore. So what? I had ice cream too.)

One thing I like about the Mitsukoshi pen festival–and it is my favorite of the two–is that many of the manufacturers, especially Pilot, Platinum, Nakaya, Eboya and Pelikan have sample pens for  you to try. In the past, though, they’ve also had two tables of samples, complete with lots of notepads. This year, though, the tables were gone and it took me an hour to realize that they’d been moved to a single table mixed in with the counters. I’d thought it was a pen manufacturer and had passed it a couple times.

Eventually, I sat down and started testing different pens, but the table also featured a woman whose job, it seemed, was talk incessantly to the man sitting next to me. I’m still not certain if I crashed an appointment or not, but at that point I was in “don’t understand if it’s not convenient” mode.

(Note: this mode is a variation on “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” but in this case it’s easier to pretend you don’t understand what’s being said and just keep doing what you’re doing.)

Whilst checking out the Aurora table and the Optima’s and 88s, I saw a bottle of Aurora Blue-Black ink. It quickly became mine. (Later I came back and actually tried the pens.)

The only thing I bought:

Pilot had a special event where a handwriting expert (at least I assume that’s what he was) asked you to write with a pen that was wired to the board on which you were writing and that was connected to a computer. This action produced a computer read out of how you write, including the writing angle, which helped him choose a Pilot nib for you.

Finally, at 3:00, a Sailor counter person took pity on me and sent me to the Sailor repair man. As I predicted, he took less than five minutes to pull the feed and straighten the nib. I could have done all this myself, but as I hope to sell the pen, I thought it best to let an expert handle it.

After my pen was fixed, I exited as quickly as I could. If it hadn’t been for the noise, I’d have probably enjoyed it more. Well, except for the three hour wait. I doubt I could have handled that better.

The Last There Were There

Some were still there, but they were cut off by bags and emergency food.

After work today I made a quick run to the last day of the 8th Annual World Fountain Pen Exhibition in the slim hope of tracking down some more bottles of the ink I managed to track down when I went there before. Alas, although there was some ink, the rare stuff was long gone.

The biggest treat was stumbling across the Sailor ink blender Mr. Usamu Ishimaru as he worked with a client. I wasn’t free on the day reservations became available and therefore didn’t have a chance to get a reservation so all I could do was gawk. He’d clearly been there a while and was looking bored. He also gave me a temporary look of recognition as I am a permanent troll at these events.

Usamu Ishimaru, Sailor’s ink blender, works with a client. Next to him is a bag display where Nakaya used to be.

I was mostly surprised to see that the Nakaya table was gone. Granted, the pens on their display have no nibs as part of the Nakaya mystique is that, if you buy from their table, they will let you choose a nib style and then their pen master/mistress will tune it to fit your writing style to help make  the pen yours, but I still expected to see a few for sale. (Then I remembered that they sell a few downstairs in the mausoleum.)

Ohashido and Eboya were still there, but Euro-Box was gone and in their place was a necktie display (yes, this is a bookstore, therefore, neckties). In Nakaya’s place was an emergency food display that included cans of curry.

That, in a nutshell, summarizes what’s wrong with the two department store pen shows. The pens are an afterthought, the sales are what’s important and pens are not more special than neckties. When I went there before, the staff at the LAMY table couldn’t give me any information until the LAMY rep was free.

My next goal is to track down the local pen fanatics and make it to one of the Wagner pen club meetings. (More on them in a future post.) Or, since I have more free time now, if I can overcome the usual resistance, find someone who could help me start my own pen show.

That will bring it’s own problems, I suspect, but that’s fodder for a future post, too.

Fun Up Stairs and Surprises Down

I didn’t get way up stairs today, so I don’t know if there was a third pen show, but the two I visited were pretty good, mostly thanks to a surprise.

Today I visited the 8th Annual World Fountain Pen Exhibition at Maruzen Books down in Tokyo. Because it was a Friday, I wasn’t expecting much. As always, the things I most wanted to see were all huddled into a tiny space next to the exit at one end of the ground floor.

I was especially pleased to see Euro-Box on hand as it was fun to look over the large selection of vintage pens. A Nakaya staffer was there tuning and fixing pens as were staff from Ohashido and Eboya.

Eizo Fujii from Euro-Box (left) watches over four displays full of vintage pens. The pen maker from Ohashido consults with a client at the back, near the exit.

The pen master from Ohashido works on a client’s pen.

The pen mistress from Nakaya (I forgot her name and she usually keeps it secret anyway by hiding her name tag) checks the smoothness of a nib at the Nakaya tables. (Note: She doesn’t like pictures, so I’m only running this because you can’t see her face clearly.)

I drooled over a couple pens but managed to walk away with my finances intact. Mostly.

Some of the Ohasahido pens. That orange and black pen second from the left is calling me. My wallet is sending a different message. (I also like the three to the right.)

Although it wasn’t that busy, there was still a lot of energy on the ground floor. However, because there wasn’t much to see other than temptation and temporary joy followed by fits of remorse, I headed downstairs into the mausoleum where it was dark and silent.

However, as soon as I arrived in the mausoleum, I saw a large collection of store exclusive inks. I quickly bought one of each. This was a big surprise as 1) I expected any ink they had to have sold out the first day and 2) they were older versions in the old style bottles. I quickly bought one of each, gambling I’d be able to sell them.

Because of that find, I was in a much better mood in the mausoleum. I looked around at a few of the displays and talked to the LAMY rep about the cap on my LAMY 2000. (He says it’s fine; I says it’s barely fine.) I saw the anniversary edition LAMY 2000 black amber, which is neither black nor amber, but is cooler looking than I expected it be.

I also found my scribblings from last  year in a sample notebook in the darkest corner of the mausoleum. Something about that struck me as funny and I left in a good mood.

I was in such a good mood that I completely forgot to check out what events were happening on the third floor.

I still think it would be cool if they squeezed a nibmeister in next to the Nakaya or Ohashido tables. It would also be nice if they allowed pictures in the mausoleum.

But I left in a good mood, so none of that bothered me much this year.



On the Nothing New

A short one today because it’s the time of year when pretty much every day is the same. The only thing that changes is the level of whining involved with what is going on.

This is especially true when you realize that nearly every student did badly on the long writing section of the exam you wrote. When they weren’t off topic or using random topics, they only covered half the topic. This is especially disheartening when you thought you were giving them an easy topic. (More on that in a future post. You have been warned.)

The only interesting things involved ink and pens and they weren’t that interesting. I sent out some ink (and a pen) and got a pen in the mail. The pen I got was not mine, though, and I now have to ready it for shipment. I’m pleased it arrived though, as this was my first adventures with Yahoo Auctions here in Japan.

I now have an actual rating, which means this may not be last adventure with Yahoo Auctions.

Not sure if that’s good or bad.


Making Plans Without Details

I’ve been trying to plan March, but some places are only interested in February. All I’ve learned is that knives plan better than pens.

February marks the start of knife show season and, quite frankly, the two shows in February are the best shows, with a special shout out to the show in October. I already know when the April show is and, if I dig around enough, I’m pretty sure the July show is already listed.

However, for the March pen fairs I have two problems. First, I have to navigate the horrible Maruzen website which only gets worse and worse as Maruzen gets new partners. Second, the website only lists special events in Febuary and includes events in Maruzen stores all over Japan.

The Mitsukoshi website also lists nothing for March.

The only thing I’ve been able to confirm, sort of, is that the Maruzen pen fair will be from March 1-7, with the Nakaya people holding court from the second through the fourth. The Sailor ink mixer will also be there a couple days as will the Pilot pen repair people. I learned all that by visiting the Nakaya and Sailor websites.

I ran into this problem last year. The department stores don’t treat the pen shows as anything particularly special and it’s hard to get any news about them until a couple weeks before they start. This year I’m going pretend I’m a member of the press and try to take pictures.

But it’s hard to plan all that when I don’t know when anything is supposed to start.