Fountain Pen Brands

Review: Levenger True Writer Obsidian Fountain Pen

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a pen review, but I’m now happy to tell you about one of my new favorite pens, the Levenger True Writer in Obsidian.

Appearance:  This is a nice looking pen!  This True Writer (“TW”) is black with “silver” accents.  I say “silver” because it is unclear from the product information whether the rings and clip are chrome or some other type of silver-colored metal.  The cap is black with a “silver” contoured clip and ring and then pen also has a cap ring engraved with “Levenger” and “True Writer.”  The body has another “silver” ring at the bottom and both the cap and bottom end of the pen have black jewels to match the body.  The section is also black.  The photo on the pen’s product page makes the black look more matte, but it’s actually very glossy.



Body:  The pen measures 5 1/2″ in length, 5/8″ diameter and weighs 0.77 oz.

I normally prefer thinner/medium pens over fat pens, and upon first use I felt the body/section was a little too wide.  However, after using the TW for only a few minutes I got used to the the width and now I barely notice it — even after switching between the TW and thinner pens.  It’s actually nice to have a bit of a fatter pen on certain days as it is quite comfortable to hold and use.

Nib:  Levenger nibs (this one included) are stainless steel and interchangable.  I requested a fine nib for this pen, but was sent a medium.  I was initially disappointed at this oversight, but upon first test my disappointment turned to pleasant surprise as this particular medium is on the fine side of medium and is actually just about the width for which I was hoping.  Levenger nibs have a tendency to be inconsistent in their widths, meaning some fines are finer than others, some mediums are more fine or more broad, etc.  It really just depends on which nib you get.  The nibs unscrew at the bottom of the section and thus can be exchanged with any other Levenger nib.  I had a slight problem with the converter/section/nib combo where the nib started unscrewing on its own and the ink leaked onto my fingers.  However, once I tightened it all was well again.

On first test the nib also seemed really stiff, however, I flexed it a little to spread the tines and after that the nib has been springy and very comfortable to use.

Caution:  be careful if you flex the tines on your Levenger nib because these nibs are not flex nibs.


Performance:  Some TW users recommend cleaning or soaking the nib to remove any factory oils that may be present, but I decided to try it as is and see how it performed.  The flow was great from the first touch of nib to paper and the nib was perfectly smooth.  I filled the converter only part way the first time, and the nib started drying out close to the end of the ink reservoir, but before the pen was actually out of ink.  Concerned, I filled it again so it was full and while I did have one more dry nib issue, it has been performing reliably since then.

This pen comes with one mini-cartridge and one converter.  I chose to use the converter so I could pick my ink of choice.  I initially inked the TW with Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku (review forthcoming) and they have been great friends.  The flow is wet, although I think that is due to both the pen and the ink, as Ku-Jaku tends to have excellent flow.


Overall:  The Levenger TW is now one of my new favorite pens, and definitely my favorite modern pen so far.  It is visually sleek, well-balanced, comfortable to use, and reliable.   I would definitely recommend this pen.

However, I did have some problems with the Levenger employees/customer service reps.  I had called the company’s toll-free number for some information and both people I spoke to were extremely rude to me and refused to answer my questions.  For that reason I am hesitant to support the Levenger company itself with my hard-earned money.  I found this to be unfortunate, as it seems they make good products and I was hoping to become a regular Levenger customer.

***UPDATE 4/7/14****  I was contacted by Levenger’s Director of Marketing to find out about my bad customer service experience.  He was quite apologetic and the company has already taken steps to handle the conduct of the employees.  It seems my experience was rare and now I feel much more comfortable endorsing Levenger’s commitment to excellent customer service.  The company really does care about their products and reputation, so I am glad this situation was corrected. I am happy to continue to support Levenger and will bring you more reviews of Levenger products in the future.

Price:  The pen retails for $59 on  Also available on Amazon – medium nib here and fine nib here.

Here’s a bonus box shot for those of you who love the boxes!


Review: Bexley Admiral Fountain Pen

I haven’t had a pen review for you for a while, so today’s review is of the new Bexley Admiral fountain pen in Reef Blue.

The ink used for this pen test is J. Herbin’s Eclat de Saphir (my review here).

I would like to express thanks to Howard Levy of Bexley Pens for loaning me this pen to review.  I have some mixed feelings about this pen, all of which I have discussed with Howard.  I will express all my opinions to you because I feel the honesty and integrity of La Plume Etoile and my reviews are of the utmost importance.  Also, please note that my current layout is chopping the photos, so please click on the photos for a full view.

Appearance:  The pen has a nice overall appearance.  I personally was not a fan of the Reef Blue crackle pattern because I thought it looked “plasticky,” but that is just personal preference.  Reef Blue comes with rhodium plated accents, and the two cap rings are a nice touch.  I also enjoyed the unique clip design that ends in a ball framed with a crescent shape.

Body:  The body is short in the hand, similar to vintage demi and junior sized pens.  I have included one photo of the Admiral with a vintage demi-sized Parker Vacumatic for comparison.

Here are the Admiral’s measurements:

–  5.25″  posted

– 4.5″  body + section with nib (no cap)

– 3.5″  body + section without nib (no cap)

–  just under 1″  for the nib by itself

– 2.5″  for the cap alone

– weight is just under 1 oz (about 0.8 oz) according to my food scale.

The width of the pen is fat, but not too fat.  The pen body is made from solid body cast acrylic, but it is really lightweight and much too light for my taste.   Frankly, I couldn’t tell the different between the solid body cast acrylic and thin plastic.  Companies like MontBlanc use injection mold acrylic which makes for more substantial, yet more fragile pen, so the benefit of Bexley’s acrylic is that it will withstand dropping, etc. much better than other pens.  However, I personally prefer a more expensive feeling pen and am careful to use more caution.


Nib:   The nib I tested was a Fine.  It is mostly stiff but does give a little if forced.  There is slight variation as seen in the photos.  The two-tone decorative nib is attractive, but too large for the pen.  The choice of large nib by Bexley is due to inventory, as it is easier for the company to stock one size of nib than different sized nibs to fit different pens.  Although it would be more difficult and expensive for the company, I think it would be better to stock different nib sizes so that the nibs are properly in proportion with each pen’s body size.  However, for the price of the pen, you definitely get quite a lot of nib!

Using the Pen:  As previously stated, the pen is very lightweight.  This is good for long writing sessions and people with hand/wrist/arm issues, but I felt the lightness slighted the balance just a tad.  The cap comes down too low so it rests in the crook of my hand when writing.   If I didn’t post the cap securely, the movement of my hand would loosen it and keep knocking it off the end of the body.   However, this can be avoided by post the cap tightly.  Because the cap posts onto the pen body inside the top of the cap, there should not be a risk of cracking the lip of the cap.   I found the weight a little too light when using unposted, but I did mostly write with it unposted because I didn’t like the cap position.


Converter:  The Admiral takes mini-cartridges and comes with a Monteverde mini-converter.  Admittedly, it took me three tries to fill this pen because I kept trying to twist the converter.  Most converters operate by twist, so I thought this to be the same.  This converter, however, does not twist.  You just pull up the black plunger and it sucks up the ink like a vacuum.  The good thing was that the operation of this conveter is easy.  The bad is that is holds a VERY small amount of ink and it needed to be refilled after one evening and one morning of normal writing.  The bonus was that cleaning the pen was one of the easiest I have ever cleaned.  I removed the converter, sucked up and released water a few times and that part was done.  I flushed the nib unit under the faucet and only had to drain it twice before there was no ink in the tissue.  That was definitely a benefit!

Performance:   The best part of this pen was the performance.  The nib was very smooth with no scratchiness.  There was no specific sweet spot to the nib and it wrote well at all angles, except if you turned the nib completely on it’s side (which you wouldn’t do anyway).  There was almost no skipping (a couple small skips on letter starts) and the ink flow was continuous.  This could definitely be a daily workhorse pen if the body is comfortable for you and you like its weight.


Price:  All pens in the Bexley Admiral Collection retail for $139.  Richard Binder has it for $104.

Overall:  I have been told the pen has been selling well and customers are very happy with it.   At that price point, I was personally disappointed at the look, feel, and weight of the acrylic; the too-large nib; and the small converter.  However, the performance was very steady and the acrylic is supposed to withstand breaking, so you might like it if you want a very lightweight pen that you could carry around with you and be a daily workhorse.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos for the box fans: