Category: Pen Reviews

Hand Engraved Kaweco Liliput Brass

Last year (December 2018) I contacted master engraver, Jay Del Fierro, to ask if he can make custom engravings on a pen for me. I told him that I intended it to be a tribute pen to honor the memory of my mom who passed away a few years ago. His schedule was pretty much booked so he wanted to decline my request, but when he found out it’s a tribute pen for my mom, he graciously added me to his long list of projects. Fast forward to yesterday, when he shipped the pen over to our place all the way from Bicol.

I’m amazed at how much detail these roses have, and that they fit in such a tiny pen such as the Kaweco Liliput (the only brass pen I own). Everything is hand engraved, even the beautiful italic lettering.

I asked for a garden of roses because my mom loved those flowers, and because I have a particularly special memory of her that involved roses. The words “Lively Little Treasure” is the meaning of my name (Alva Pao-Pei). My name was the first thing that my mom gave me when I was born. She gave it a lot of thought and as soon as I’m old enough to understand, she taught me what it meant. Some of the clearest memories I have of my early childhood were of my mom taking my face in her hands, looking me in the eyes, and telling me that I’m her lively little treasure.

I wasn’t always very appreciative of my unique name. Being an extremely introverted child, I hated drawing any kind of attention to myself, and of course I hated having to explain to strangers what my name meant. I learned to love it as time went by, though. I learned to like explaining the meaning of my name to anyone who asked. After my mother passed away, I grew to treasure every evidence of thoughts that she had about me. Journal entries, letters, email messages…my name. These are all precious to me.

I waited 6 months before I got it back, but it’s really worth the wait. I love the work that Jay did on my pen. Now there’s no other Liliput quite like it. It’s as unique as my name. 🙂

Review: FPR Himalaya Ultraflex

A few weeks ago, I attended a small pen meet with fellow southies. One of them had a wonderful collection of vintage flex pens. I’ve always been so hesitant to try flex pens because I’m afraid to ruin the nib with all the flexing. I didn’t want to flex the nib too much, and I wasn’t sure what the right amount of flex was. I did buy a Noodler’s Ahab several years ago but I found it so difficult to flex, it wasn’t too enjoyable to use. During the pen meet that I attended, I bravely tried out Pat’s flexies with a very light hand, very minimal pressure. I was surprised at how beautifully they flexed and how easy it was on the hand. I decided I would give flexies another try, but since I’m on a budget, I decided to try one of those FPR Himalaya Ultraflexies that Kailash from Pengrafik was selling at the time.

The pen’s body and feed are made of ebonite. I chose the brown swirly design over the plain designs because I thought it looked really pretty. Plus, I don’t have an ebonite pen yet, I thought it would make a nice addition to my collection. The pen itself looks really simple. I like the simplicity of the design, the flat ends, the simple clip, the simple chrome-colored trims that aren’t ostentatious or flashy. The pen is light, but it wasn’t as light as I expected it would be.

I liked the length of the section, it’s comfortable to hold and the length makes it a good fit in the hand whether the cap is posted or unposted. The converter is a plunger-type design which is screwed onto the pen. You’ll notice a lot of silicone grease when you unscrew the barrel. I suggest that you don’t unscrew the converter anymore to clean out the pen. Of if you do, make sure that you apply silicone grease on the threads. Because of the ebonite body, the pen smells a little like burned rubber. I think the smell is a lot less pronounced than the Ahab, though. I don’t mind it.

Prior to using the pen, I heat-set the ebonite feed first. Here is the tutorial I used to do this. It’s important to heat set the feed, so do not skip this step. If you don’t heat set the feed, the pen will not write well. Mine railroaded a lot and alternated with burping blobs of ink and not writing at all until I heat set it a few times. After it was properly prepared, I inked it up and the magic began.

Cursive is just not in my comfort zone, but it’s always fun to try something new. The ultraflex nib is so soft, it’s almost effortless to use. Of course it’s not the same as vintage wet noodles but as far as steel nibs go, this one is pretty soft. It’s a far cry from the Noodler’s Ahab that I owned. You can use it for regular writing or if you want to add line variations in block letters. Normal writing feels great on it. You can’t really get very thin hairlines like how you would if you used nibs for pointed pen calligraphy, but the fine lines do look (and feel) like you’re writing with an XF nib. Lots of nice feedback and the ink flow is consistent. If you use a wet ink, the hairlines may look thicker.

I haven’t really had the time to start studying calligraphy yet, but I do enjoy my wobbly figure eights. If the pen railroads a lot, try heatsetting it until you get a better flow. I noticed that you need to get into the rhythm of writing to avoid railroading too. Here’s a video of the writing sample. You can see that the pen keeps up with my hand pretty well. It took a bit of practice to get the speed and angle right, and I had to heat set until I’m happy with how it writes.

It’s important that you’re not afraid to tinker with the pen if you want to try this. It’s a lot of fun, really. Since it’s an ultraflex nib, it kinda guzzles a lot of ink, but it also shows off the beauty and character of the inks that I use. If you want to dabble in calligraphy but don’t have the moolah for vintage flexies or if you want to give your handwriting a bit of line variation from the bouncy nib (it feels like it’s bouncing as you write), or if you just want to zone out while writing figure 8’s on your notebook, this may be the pen for you. It also has a flexy variant but I wasn’t able to try that out.

FPR pens are available at Pengrafik.

Opus 88 Fantasia Review

The last of the Opus 88 pens that I tried is the Fantasia. Read my reviews on the Picnic and Koloro. Everything Calligraphy sent a fine nibbed pen for me to try but I really liked how this pen looked so I asked for a medium nib for this one. It was delivered the next day after I requested it.

Like the Koloro, the Fantasia is a combination of acrylic and ebonite. I love the way it looks, especially the color bands on the ebonite cap. The color on Everything Calligraphy’s site is “brick red”, but on other sites it’s called brown or terracotta. Whatever it’s called, I really love this color. It’s like espresso. 🙂 Of course I inked it with something that complements the color–Montblanc Toffee Brown. Dark brown in some areas, a bit of orange in lighter strokes.

It has a smaller knob for the piston that locks the shutoff valve, so the top of the cap has this little screwdriver-like line you can use to turn it. Not really necessary, though, because I find it easy enough to turn the knob without this. It does make a pretty cool finial.

The cap can be screwed to the end of the barrel if you want to post it. I think it’s a tad too short if unposted, as you can see below.

The length of the pen when posted is about 5.7 inches. When unposted, it’s about 4 inches. The section is smaller and less comfortable compared to Picnic and Koloro. It’s not that it’s uncomfortable to hold, but the sections of Picnic and Koloro are longer and would be more comfortable especially for people with bigger hands.

Like the Picnic and Koloro, this comes with a glass pipette-thingamajig, which I find less convenient to use than a syringe.

I like the clip on this model. It’s just square and short and stumpy. It also slips through the pen loop easily, like the clips on the Picnic and Koloro. The clip is attached to the cap with a thin chrome-colored band, I’m happy that’s the only chrome-colored material on the pen’s build.

The nib is the same as the other two models and it’s a very smooth medium, steel nib. I quite enjoy writing with it. It has a smidge of feedback and it’s firm, not too springy. I think that the medium nib is a lot more pleasant to use than the fine nib, but of course I’ve always enjoyed medium nibs more. Here is a writing sample. The ink color is a perfect match. <3

I picked this pen over the Picnic and Koloro because I think the size is so cute, and it looks different from all my other pens. The striped cap, the color accents, the combination of materials, these are unique to it. I don’t consider myself a pen collector by any stretch, but this one’s a great addition to my daily carry. It is a smooth writer and (being an eyedropper), it carries a lot of ink. Some people might not like the fact that you need to screw the cap to post it, but I don’t really mind at all. Would I recommend it? Definitely.

Opus 88 Koloro Review

Last week I tried three different kinds of Opus 88 pens. Here’s the review I wrote for the Opus 88 Picnic. Today I’m going to write a short review for the Koloro. The Koloro and the Fantasia both use acrylic and ebonite in their design. I understand that some people don’t like the combination, but I find the textural variation to be very pleasant. I like the way that it looks. Like the Picnic and Fantasia, the Koloro’s acrylic is pretty thick and nicely polished. It doesn’t feel too plasticky or thin.

I like the shape of the pen, it’s sort of flat at the ends, but has a little point or flair to it so that it’s not completely flat. The barrel and the cap has a slight swell to them. The length of the pen is about 5.5 inches capped and almost 5 inches uncapped. It has chrome trims, very simple and unassuming.

The clip is the same as the Picnic’s. It snaps right through and pulls off a pen loop without any problems. The translucent strip of acrylic on the cap shows a silhouette of the nib.

The section is long and has a bit of flair at the end, just like the Picnic. It’s so comfortable to hold. The weight is pleasant too, especially when inked. It’s not too light, considering the materials used for it.

I enjoyed trying out both the Picnic and Koloro because the section is so comfortable. If you have large hands, you probably won’t have a hard time holding it.

The Koloro also uses a shutoff valve that can be adjusted through a piston mechanism at the end of the barrel. It reduces the likelihood of leaking and burping while in transit.

The end of the barrel is made of ebonite. Just twist it a bit (about a turn and a half) to release the ink into the feed. Twist it back to depress the rubber gasket and seal off the feed again.

The nib of the unit that I tried is Fine, which feels like a European XF for me. It’s firm and smooth, with a little bit of feedback.

I would put the flow at a little bit dry to moderate. If you enjoy wet nibs like I do, I recommend either using a wet ink (like I did in this writing sample) or tune the nib to write a bit wetter. The pen writes well, though, the steel nib is reliable and pleasant to use.

Overall, it’s a nice pen. I like the design and the interesting textures of acrylic and ebonite. I like that it writes well and is pleasant and comfortable in the hand. Thanks to the wonderful people at Everything Calligraphy for letting me try it out.

Opus 88 Picnic Review

L-R: Opus 88 Picnic, Fantasia, Koloro

Last week I was able to try three different kinds of Opus 88 pens.These are all steel-nibbed pens, so the nibs write the same, more or less. They’re all eyedropper pens too, which means that you transfer ink into the barrel instead of through converter, piston, or cartridge. Since I have eyedroppered many pens before, I went right to eyedroppering it and testing the pen. After two pages, it stopped writing. Hence, the importance of reading instructions. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Opus 88 Picnic comes in a grey box with a white sleeve. The box is very minimalist. Not too many bells and whistles here.

Open the box and viola! A pipette-looking thing thing and the beautiful, translucent blue pen. There’s also that little piece of booklet that I should have read first before using the pen.

The first impression I had on the pen is that it’s shaped nicely, and the acrylic is pretty nice too. It doesn’t feel thin and cheap. I also wondered what that little mechanism you see through the acrylic could be, but since I didn’t read the little booklet, I just went ahead and disassembled the pen parts before I inked it.

The pen’s length when capped is about 5.6 inches capped and 5 inches uncapped. It has chrome-colored trims on both ends of the barrel and a chrome-colored clip.

The clip has little ridges around it, and it’s a bit curvy. It’s tight but it’s very usable. Slips right through my pen loops and pockets without a problem.

The section is long and comfortable to hold. I liked it right away, and for a person with a medium-sized hand, the girth makes it very comfortable to hold. The section has a slight flare towards the end, near the nib. You can post the pen if you like, but I’m not sure how the acrylic will hold up to that. I prefer to use my pens unposted.

Here’s the inside of the barrel and the section. If I had read the booklet first, I would have learned that the pen has a locking mechanism for the ink. This right here acts like a stopper that pushes itself into the section and locks the ink out. This is to prevent ink burping when you’re in transit. Eyedropper pens carry a larger amount of ink in the barrel, but they’re also a bit prone to burping (bless you), especially if you’re traveling by air.

I inked this one with Colorverse Strelka, because…blue.

I didn’t like the pipette much because it only sucks up about a bit of ink at a time, and some ink stays in it after you squeeze it out. I think a more economical and faster way to fill up an eyedropper is through a syringe. Lesser ink wastage, faster filling. No muss, no fuss. That being said, of course it’s nice of them to include this in the package, for people who don’t yet have syringes.

The steel nib actually wrote pretty well. It’s a fine nib but it feels more like an xf to me. There’s a bit of feedback, and the nib is firm, without much bounce. It wrote consistently, then after about two pages, it stopped writing. After a few minutes of shaking, trying to coax out the ink, I finally read the little booklet and lo and behold, I missed that important instruction of releasing a bit of the piston mechanism at the end of the barrel.

I twisted it just a smidge (not like the one in the photo below, lol). I just turned it about a turn and a half.

Ah, that did the trick. You can actually just leave the pen un-twisted if you prefer it that way, and just close it off when you’re going to be traveling. I thought it’s such a clever touch to add to an eyedropper pen. I also wonder if it’s going to prevent burping 100%, I’ll need to test it longer to find out.

Overall, I think the Opus 88 Picnic is a pretty pen, it writes well enough for a steel nib, and has an interesting take on an eyedropper system. It’s super comfortable to hold and light enough not to tire out the hand for long writing sessions.

All the Opus 88 pens I tried were from Everything Calligraphy.