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Mini-Iroshizukus are here!

The new mini Iroshizuku ink bottles have arrived!  They are 15 mL each, and just as classy looking as the larger size.  They come in individual bottles, plus some colors come in a 3-bottle gift set.  They are still pricey, as it’s practically $1 per mL, whereas the large version supplies 50 mL for about $30, but it’s still a nice solution for someone who doesn’t want to spend $30 or knows (s)he doesn’t need or want 50 mL of ink.

The cheapest price I have seen is $12.19 (with free shipping!) on Amazon, although it doesn’t seem that all colors are available.

They are also at JetPens.com for $14.00 + shipping (shipping price depends on your order).

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.

LPE-TWinbox

LPE-TWjewel

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.

LPE-TWnibcloseLPE-TWpiecesboxLPE-TWuncapped

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.

levengertw-writingsampleLPE-TWbox2

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 Levenger.com.  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!

LPE-TWbox

Review: J. Herbin Vert Réséda Fountain Pen Ink

J. Herbin’s Vert Réséda has also been one of my favorite end of summer/beginning of fall inks.   The name translates as “reseda green” and the ink lives up to the quality I expect from J. Herbin.

The Bottle:  Like all J. Herbin bottles, the bottle is compact and has a much appreciated pen rest.  One newer feature is that the cap is shiny black plastic, whereas previous bottles had more of a matte plastic cap.

The Color:  This color is hard to describe, but it’s sort of a minty teal/turquoise.  It also matches one of my sealing waxes exactly, so that is a plus for someone like me who likes to color coordinate my writing accoutrements.

Consistency/Flow:  I found the flow to be moderate at first, but actually it got wetter the more I used it.  I started out testing the ink with an Esterbrook dip pen (nib 2442), and the flow was good.  Then I inked it in one of my vintage Vacumatics.  The flow started off just okay.  Now that I have refilled that pen several times with Vert Réséda, I have noticed that the flow has increased, the ink is wetter, and the color is slightly darker.  So this slightly darker color is what you see in the writing samples pictured, but note that you might experience the color to be a bit lighter and closer to the square on the top of the box.

Shading, Feathering, and Other Characteristics: I have not experienced any feathering with Vert Réséda.  At first, there was barely any shading at all.  I was slightly disappointed, but liked the color so much that I planned to continue using it even without shading.  However, again through refills and continued use, the shading has also increased along with the flow and wetness as described above.  As you can see the writing sample, it now has a fairly decent amount of shading.  This development is much to my delight, although I do not know if these results are typical for all users.

Writing sample close-up to see shading.

Writing sample close-up to see shading.

Overall:  I really like this ink and plan on keeping it in my regular rotation.

Writing samples written on Rhodia mini graph pad.

Writing samples written on Rhodia mini graph pad.

Purchasing and Pricing:  A 30mL bottle runs between $7-12 depending on the retailer and is available at most online retailers catering to fountain pen and ink users.  You can also purchase from one of the links below to help support La Plume Etoile.

            

 

Review: Pilot Iroshizuku Kosomosu Fountain Pen Ink

It has finally happened — I am the proud owner of two Pilot Iroshizuku inks.  (I’ll have the review of the other color shortly, but for now I’ll keep it as a surprise.)

With this brand, you can believe the hype.  I’ve had a field day with some bright colors this summer, and I want to get those reviews up before I switch to some glorious fall colors.

Today’s review is Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu, or as I like to call it, the cherry blossom ink.

Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu with a vintage pink Esterbrook and a Rhodia Dot Pad

Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu with a vintage pink Esterbrook and a Rhodia Dot Pad

The Bottle:  If you already own Iroshizuku ink or have read other reviews, you know the bottle is quite nice.  It’s made of handblown glass and the ink reservoir takes up about 75% of the bottle with a little triangle at the bottom of the reservoir.  The bottom quarter of the bottle is just thick clear glass, but the way that it is blown allows for some reflection from the ink in the reservoir.  The cap is just black plastic, and there is a little grey cord tied around the neck.  If there is a purpose to the cord other than decoration, I’m not aware of it.  As far as the box, it’s silver and does have a little flap inside to hold the bottle in more securely, but it is as visually appealing as the bottle.

 

Color:  This ink is Kosumoso, which means “cosmos flower.”  To me it suggests cherry blossoms.  It’s close to a bubblegum pink color with coral undertones, which differs from some pinks that have more purple undertones.  As one of “those” people that often likes to match inks to pens, Kosumosu is a great match for my pink Esterbrook.

Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu's color is a close match to my pink Esterbrook

Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu’s color is a close match to my pink Esterbrook

Consistency/Flow:  I have only been using this ink in my vintage Esterbrook and am already on my fourth refill.  My Esterbrook has some flow issues and a scratchy nib that I need to refine, so I think it was a great pen for testing.  My first impression of Kosumoso didn’t make me say “Wow!  The flow of this ink is amazing!”  However, the flow has been very stable.  It’s not dry and is appropriately wet without being too wet.  It has actually alleviated some of the dryness and flow issues of the pen, although did not completely resolve them.

Shading, Feathering, and Other Characteristics:  Kosumoso does have some shading, but not as much as I was expecting from reviews of some of the other Iroshizuku colors.  It’s enough to be noticeable for those who look for shading, but would probably be lost on the non-fountain pen/ink person.  I have sometimes experienced minuscule feathering on cheap paper, but I think that is really due to the absorption qualities of the paper rather than the ink’s properties.  It behaves very well, especially on high quality paper.  The figure 8s in the writing sample photos look like they have a little feathering, but it is because the scratchy nib was catching on the paper a bit, it is not from the ink.  The writing sample was on a Rhodia Dot Pad.

Overall:  This ink immediately became part of my regular rotation, especially in the warmer months when bright colors are a necessity.  A great color match for my Estie makes it all the more fitting.

Purchasing and Pricing:  This ink is imported from Japan and not cheap.  It retails for about $27-28 on most online retailers.  You can sometimes find it for a few dollars less, but after adding the shipping it doesn’t make much difference.  I got mine from Amazon, which is direct from Pilot, considerably cheaper, and you can get free shipping if you spend more than $25.   You can click the photo/link below to buy your own bottle of Kosumoso from Amazon and help support La Plume Etoile.