Category: Pen Reviews

Review: Jinhao Snake Pen

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Last week, our friends from Everything Calligraphy sent over several new models of Jinhao and Baoer pens for me to play with, and play with them I did. My impression on the nibs are all quite the same across the pens. I think they’re all the same kind of nib (medium, steel).

Generally, Jinhao nibs are okay, but you have to be ready to do a bit of work on them to make them write the way you want them to. Sometimes you need to flush them with water to remove the manufacturing oils on them, sometimes you need to tune or smooth them out. Sometimes they work perfectly right out of the box.

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The first pen that I will review is the Snake pen. It’s kinda hard not to notice these pens right away because of the very Slytherin vibe. The two snakes wrapped around the cap and the body, and the snake head on the finial make these pen very conspicuous.

Check out the details of the snakes below:

All the embellishment gives the pen substantial weight. In fact, it would be best to write with this pen unposted. The cap will make it very top-heavy. Without the cap, it’s still quite a weighty pen, but it’s not so uncomfortable to write with.

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I like this color best. I think it looks a bit like pewter. I like the details of the pen, although it’s a tad too heavy for my hand. If Jinhao came up with a slimmer version of this pen, I’d be all over it.

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The section of this pen is comfortably long in size, and it is made of smooth, hard plastic. The cap twists off, and as you can see, there are also threads on the end of the barrel.

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This one writes pretty well. The flow is good and the nib is sufficiently smooth, although hard as a nail. It’s not springy, but it’s a consistent enough writer.

Overall, it’s a very intricately-decorated pen. If you like whimsical designs and don’t mind the weight of the pen’s pretty badass-looking snakes, this is a good buy.

Jinhao Pens are for sale at Everything Calligraphy.

Modern vs. Old Style Cross Century II

Last February, my husband bought me an old-style Cross Century II fountain pen. I can’t really consider it vintage, but I know that this was before Cross was bought by a Chinese company. The logo is different and the design is also slightly different. The body of that Cross Century II pen was a little beat up, it has a lot of microscratches, and I wasn’t too keen on the stainless steel body. All it took to change my opinion about it was to ink it up and write with it. It has one of the best steel nibs I’ve tried so far, rivaling many of my gold-nibbed pens. The steel nib was incredibly smooth and the flow was wonderful. The pen itself felt wonderful in my hand. It quickly became one of my favorites (I haven’t taken it out of rotation since I got it).

Fast forward to last weekend. I went to this warehouse sale where I bought two sets of Century IIs because I was completely infatuated with the pen that I have had in my EDC for months.

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When I inked it up and tried to write with it, the nibs were good but not as good as the old style of Cross Century II that I have. It just felt so different. I tuned the nibs a bit to lessen the feedback, that worked, but there’s really just something different about the older pen.

At first glance, they look identical aside from the color. It’s just when you give it a closer look that you realize some differences. Of course the most noticeable is the logo. The one on the left is the old logo and the one on the right is the modern one. I prefer the old logo because it’s prettier. The slim and  boxy style looks classier. Even the way it’s stamped on the clip looks better. The modern logo’s kerning looks too wide and the style isn’t that distinctive.

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The cap of the old Cross Century II has an additional etching near the top. It’s very faint, but I thought it really tied up the design quite well. The branding was well-made. The caps of the modern Century IIs don’t have this little detail.

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The finials are also different. The one on the left is the old style, the one on the right is the modern style. Again, I prefer the continuity of the design of the old style of Century II. The black disc on the finial of the modern pen looks like it serves no purpose and makes it feel like an afterthought, or something they did because they couldn’t make the top of the pen all in one piece. The old style of the cap is also a tad longer than the modern ones, though they both have the same kind of plastic inner cap that makes sure it secures the cap when closed and that it posts on the pen without scratching the finish of the barrel.

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The nib detailing is also different. The etching on the nibs look the same, but the etching on the old style of Century II seems more polished, deeper, and smoother. The modern nib (on the right) looks to be etched just to pattern it after the original design of the nib. However you can see that the etching is not deep and the finish is not as smooth.

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A closer look at the nib’s iridium ball also shows that the two are quite different. The older nib (left) is less bulbous. Look at the size of the tipping on the modern Century II (right).

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I’m not sure how the tipping of the modern nib affects the writing, but I feel that the old nib lays down a more consistent line, and it’s really a lot smoother than the new ones. Watch the writing samples below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ww1XN5mP9Ms]

I’m not saying the modern Cross pens are not good. I’m saying that they’re not as good as the old style of Century IIs. The workmanship is just very different. Even the way that the trims are put together look much better than the modern pens. Well, like what they say, they don’t make ’em like they used to. 🙂

These are good pens, though. They write without skipping or hard starting. They are good steel-nibbed pens and they look great too. My favorite of the two would have to be the blue one. It’s a little pearlescent in color and I inked it with Emerald of Chivor because…sparkles!

Review: Franklin Christoph Model 02 – Intrinsic

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I’ve had a crush on this pen since last year, when I first started collecting and using fountain pens. I remember that the first Franklin Christoph pen I saw in the FPN-P Group’s FB page was the Model 40 pocket pen in smoke and ice. I promised myself I would someday get one for myself, but I am wary of purchasing online and shipping it to the Philippines. It’s a good thing Everything Calligraphy is now selling Franklin Christoph pens. I was torn between the Black and Cinnamaroon and Smoke and Ice. I spent a long time going back and forth, before I decided on buying the Smoke and Ice first and then perhaps the black and cinnamaroon for Christmas. 🙂

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The pen absolutely did not disappoint. My first impression is that it looks very distinctive. The acrylic makes it look like I’m writing with a piece of icicle, and it’s way cool.

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It’s a little bigger than I expected. At least the cap is bigger than I expected. The barrel is a bit oddly-shaped, half of it tapers a bit, so that you can post the cap, and it posts deeply. The photo below shows what the pen looks like when posted, which is shorter than it would usually be if the barrel didn’t have that weird-looking tapered half.

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Isn’t it gorgeous, though? When it catches the light at a certain angle, it really makes you look twice. I am so tempted to turn it into an eyedropper (perhaps I will in the future), but I don’t think I can endure the thought of the ink staining the frosted texture inside the barrel.

The pen is not very hefty. I like posting it because the length is comfortable, and the cap does not make the pen top-heavy when posted. It’s actually one of the very few pens I prefer to use posted.

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The cap band has “Franklin Christoph 02” tastefully etched around it. The nib too has a simple gothic F on it. I find that these little touches are very nice. Understated and not screaming for attention.

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The finial also has a gothic F on it, and the four diamonds that are also engraved on the clip. I wanted to buy a pen with the emerald-colored finial, but then again I wanted to have a pen that is completely color-neutral.

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Here’s a photo of the finial. I currently keep it in a two-pen slip case so I can pull it out easily. That’s a Faber Castell Emotion beside it. The cap of the Model 02 is definitely fatter.

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The section of this pen is sufficiently long, for me. And I like that the thread is at the end of the section. That’s pretty nice. It means the threads aren’t biting into my fingers as I write. The threads are also larger but smoother than what we normally see on pens. This means that even if you hold the pen nearer to the end of the section, the threads might still not be bothersome for you. I like it a lot because the length of the section and the absence of the threads on it makes the pen such a joy to write with. I’ve had this for a couple of weeks and I really enjoy using it for long journal entries and letters. It’s an absolute joy to write with.

The nib is a steel 1.1mm stub. It’s smooth with a bit of feedback and writes moderately wet. I initially inked it with Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku, but I changed the ink to J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor which flows much wetter. It might be a while before I ink it with anything else. The nib really brings out the beauty of the ink.

Here’s a writing sample of the pen  below:

Overall, I’m glad this pen is crossed out of my wishlist. I want to get another one, with a medium nib this time, and a different color. This pen looks and feels well-made. The workmanship is superb, it is well-balanced, and it writes so well. I’m pretty much in love with it. 🙂

Review: Jinhao 159

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Here’s the last Jinhao pen that I tried out last weekend courtesy of Everything Calligraphy. It’s the Jinhao 159, and boy, do they remind me of tictacs. The colors are just so happy! I thought they were so cute!

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Of the three Jinhao pens that I tried last weekend (read the reviews for X750 and X450), this is probably the most colorful and also the biggest. The body is a cigar shape, and it’s all shiny, including the section. It’s made of metal so it’s quite heavy. I like how they designed the trimmings of the pen–they’re much simpler. The cap’s bands are thinner, so are the bands near the end of the barrel. It’s a good idea since the colors are already pretty eye-catching. Large trims will only throw the design off.

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I cannot get over how cute the colors are! My favorite is the apple green. it is such a fun color. 🙂 The pen is large, about 150mm when capped. The cap screws off, unlike the x750 and x450 which pulls off. The nib is also removable, so you can actually replace it with any #6 nib if you want to use something else for it, like a Goulet nib. The weight is about 50g.

The design reminds me of a Montblanc 149, but all the similarities stop with the basic look. The material, the trims, the nib, the ink delivery system (cartridge/converter), everything about it is different. For the price of P599 (about $12), you get a cute pen that writes decently. I say that it’s a good deal for the price.

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I inked the apple green pen with Alt Goldgrun and oh, it’s just so cute. ^_^ It writes moderately wet, and the nib is smooth enough. If you want to improve the performance of the nib, you can always tune it so it writes better, or you can replace it with a different, compatible nib. Overall, a pretty nice pen, especially for the price. 🙂

Review: Jinhao X750

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Here’s another entry-level pen that I tried courtesy of Everything Calligraphy. It’s the Jinhao X750, and it’s at the same price point as the X450. The Jinhao X750 is another nice, simple, affordable, entry-level pen.

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Silver and Matte Black

This pen also has a cigar or torpedo shape, except it doesn’t taper much on both ends. It’s almost cylindrical in shape. The ends of the barrel and the cap are dome-shaped and less pointy than the x450, so I think it looks a bit more low-key.

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Two of my favorite designs. Black and Silver Checkered and Black Constellation.

I don’t think the pen was designed to be posted, and like the x450, posting the x750 makes it top-heavy. It would definitely be better-balanced when used unposted. The section of the pen is made of hard rubber and has no ridges on it. It’s smooth without being slippery. I like that this makes the pen easier to grip, and it’s a plus for those who prefer not to use pens with tripod grips like the x450.

As far as the nib goes, it appears to be the same nib as the x450. The one I got wrote a little bit dryer by comparison (then again, I like my pens to write wetter than they usually do, hence I tune them to fit my preference). That being said, it’s always good to know how to tune your own pens’ nibs. Here a few basic tips to help you with increasing the ink flow on your nib.

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I noticed that this line features more metallic-looking, subdued colors. It’s a good entry-level pen too, and like the x750, some fountain pen users have hacked it into a flex pen using a Zebra nib. Just a reminder before you try this–fiddling with your pen’s nib and feed may break your pen, so fiddle away at your own risk.

Overall, I think the Jinhao X750 would also make a good first pen for those who just want to get their feet wet with this hobby. It’s a very affordable pen that enables you to enjoy the benefits of using a fountain pen without paying too much. It looks pretty good too. 🙂

Review: Jinhao x450

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It’s been a while since I last tried a Jinhao pen. Since Everything Calligraphy is now carrying three kinds of Jinhaos, I thought I’d try them out. First up is the Jinhao X450. I got to check out a few colors before I picked out which one I liked best.

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I think the one on the left is called Blue Sky. The one on the right is the pen I picked–Oriental Red

My first impression of the X450 is that the colors are quite interesting. There’s a lot of variety, lots of different colors to suit your personality. Some may like the vibrant sky blue color, others (like me) may like the more subdued colors like dark red or black. There’s lots of colors to choose from.

It’s interesting how Jinhao can keep these pens cheap considering that they feel heavy, and the designs are good.

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I think the one in the middle is Grey Tortoise, also a pretty nice color. Looks like marble.

I decided on taking the Oriental Red color, which is a translucent red with very subtle spots of gold. I like it because it’s simple, understated, and the gold spots looks a bit like those shimmering ink blots. I think it looks very pretty. Reminds me of a red silk kimono.

This pen is heavy, but not uncomfortably so. I don’t think it’s meant to be posted. You can post the cap but it feels loose. Besides, posting it makes the pen top-heavy, and throws the balance off. I prefer it unposted, and I think the weight is quite comfortable.

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Isn’t it lovely? The pen is shaped like a torpedo or a cigar. It’s not excessively fat and it tapers on both ends. The ends of the pen are black, which is a nice touch to tie up or unify the design. The cap snaps on and off and has steel trimmings.

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I like that Jinhao kept the trimmings of the pen simple so that they don’t look gaudy. Around the cap band is the brand name Jinhao and the model X450. The clip seems sturdy but is not what I would call springy.

The section has a tripod grip made of hard rubber. Some parts of the section are ribbed, but it’s not uncomfortable. It makes the pen easier to hold, at least.

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The pen comes with a converter, and since the body is made of metal, it cannot be converted to an eyedropper.

The pen writes very well. It wrote without hardstarting, I just filled it with a little bit of Rohrer & Klingner’s Alt Bordeaux, put it on paper and off it went! My first Jinhao (which I reviewed last year) took a little fiddling to make into a wet writer, but this one really had no problems with the nib. I was ready to do a little tuning to make it write wet, but I’m glad it turned out that I didn’t need it at all. Check out the writing sample below:

I mentioned earlier that I inked it with a bit of Alt Bordeaux to try out the nib at first, but the ink color just did not feel right to me. I flushed it out, cleaned it, and filled it up with Diamine Oxblood…and all is right with the world again. 🙂

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Overall, my experience with this pen is really positive. For the price of P499, you really get your money’s worth. The nib is smooth and writes wet, it’s so pleasant to use. I don’t really mind whether I’m using a steel or gold nib (some people prefer only gold nibs and I say to them…whatever floats your boat), all I really want is a smooth writing experience. I like this pen a lot. It’s an entry level pen, but it writes better than other entry level pens three, even six times its price.

If you’re in the Philippines and you’re looking into cheap fountain pens that write well, I would highly recommend this. Check out Everything Calligraphy and find out how to order. Yes, they do ship all over the Philippines. 🙂

Tip: Some adventurous fountain pen users have tried to turn their Jinhao x450 into flex pens. Here’s a nifty tutorial on how to do that. Just a reminder, be sure to follow the directions carefully and know that MacGyvering with your pen can break it. So, hack at your own risk. 🙂

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Paper Review: Field Notes Expedition

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It’s exciting that Field Notes are now available at Everything Calligraphy. International brands are pouring in, and this only means more choices for notebook and pen junkies like me. That being said, today I got this in the mail from Everything Calligraphy. At first I thought it’s just a regular pocket notebook, but no. Nonononono. It’s the Chuck Norris of pocket notebooks.

One look and touch at the paper and you’ll know it’s got a different texture. I tried to rip off the belly band and it wouldn’t budge, but it did not register to me at first that the belly band is made of the same paper as the notepad. So yeah, this paper is practically tear-proof. The tensile strength is impressive. Very Chuck Norris-y.

It’s my first time to try any kind of Field Notes, and I found the front and back covers to be very useful. I find the cover very utilitarian, and sometimes there’s an appeal in that. A kind of uniformity that helps you find what you need in a stack of identical notebooks.

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The front cover is a bright orange, what Field Notes call Antarctic Survey Orange. I believe that it’s in this color so that it will be easy to spot even in low visibility situations. It’s similar to the orange color on life vests. Inside are details about the contents and contact information of the owner.

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The back has a ruler (in centimeters) printed on it, and specifications of the notebook itself, from their history to the kind of ink they used to print the dot grids on the pages.

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The paper used in this Field Notes is Yupo synthetic paper. It’s my first time to use waterproof paper so I really didn’t know what to make of it. I honestly did not even know that there’s such a thing. Anyway, so I tried all of my inked pens on it, starting with my Cross Century II inked with J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor (photo above). It shows off the sheen pretty well, but it takes a long time to dry. I realized that with specialized papers such as this synthetic, water-proof paper, you have to set your expectations that not all kinds of pens will work well with it.

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I would suggest fine and medium nibs with dry-flowing inks. Yupo paper is non-porous, so you can expect your ink to look different on it. The shading will look different too. As long as you let the ink dry properly on the page, it won’t smudge after. Taking it to extreme conditions, however, is a different thing altogether. Water-based inks will definitely wash away. What I found to work well are ballpoint pens, pencils, pigmented drawing pens, and water-proof fountain pen inks.

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Here’s a video of a writing sample made with De Atramentis Document Ink. Before I shot this video, I had already soaked this part of the notebook in water. I thought I’d do it again and see if it still holds up well. You can see that when I dabbed the water off, the paper and ink still held up excellently. In fact, it seems like it hadn’t been soaked in water. There’s no change in the paper’s texture at all.

That is pretty awesome. I can think of a few things I would enjoy doing with this notebook. Like getting caught in the rain haha. Seriously, this is one notebook you don’t need to worry about ruining. Field Notes even conducted a bunch of scientific tests to see how resilient this paper is.

The trick is finding the right writing implements to use with it. People who want their notes to last and who often take down notes in harsh conditions will find this extremely useful.

Technical specifications:
Dimensions – 3.5″ x 5.5″
Pages – 48
Paper type – dot grid (light grey colored dots)

I bought regular Field Notes (with the brown cover) and that will be another notebook review soon. 

Field Notes is distributed in the Philippines by Everything Calligraphy and will be available for sale starting tomorrow (October 9, 2015).

Review: Pilot 78G, Fine

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I love Pilot fountain pens. I think their entry level pens offer the best value for money. I often buy Metropolitans and 78Gs and somehow I still find myself running out of them because I often give them to people who are not yet familiar with fountain pens, to help get them started with the hobby.

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I bought this pen from Everything Calligraphy, and I’m glad they still have black 78Gs because this color is always out of stock whenever I try to buy from other local sources. I think that the appeal of the 78G is that it doesn’t look like an entry level pen. I like the design a lot, especially this color. The black and gold-colored trims look very presentable.

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I like the squarish clip of this pen. The pen is very light in the hand. I prefer the weight of the Metropolitan, but this does make it easier to use for long writing or drawing sessions. The pen uses a proprietary squeeze converter. The cap twists off the barrel and posts comfortably at the end of the pen. This pen, I prefer to use posted just for the added weight of the cap.

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The length is pretty decent too,here it is with a Pilot Vanishing Point. The length is very comfortable in the hand. Even the length of the section is very comfortable. The material of the body is plastic, and of course it doesn’t feel very thick or sturdy. I haven’t dropped any of my 78G’s yet, but I don’t think it will survive a fall. At least your heart will survive if you drop it, it’s not ridiculously expensive.

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The best feature of this pen though is its nib. As always, Pilot’s nibs are just excellent. Even their entry level pens are smooth, wet writers. You would be surprised at how the nib is at par with many of my mid level pens. They tend to be really fine, though (because these are Japanese nibs).

IMG_2791I usually prefer medium nibs for everyday writing, but of course there are times when you need to use fine nibs because of paper quality. Government forms, for example, would not be suitable for medium nibs. I bought this pen for my drawings, though. Here’s an example of a quick sketch. The fine nib of this 78G is not as fine as a Pilot Birdie’s, but it is fine enough to be used for detail work.

Here’s a video of a writing sample below. You can see that even with such a fine nib, it writes smoothly and the flow is so good.

Overall, I think the 78G is one of the best entry level pens that you can buy. The price is very affordable, and the nib is excellent. It’s very light, it doesn’t feel too sturdy, but for its price and nib quality, I would recommend this over other entry level pens. If you’re on a tight budget or if you just want to get your feet wet and see if using fountain pens will work out for you, this pen offers great quality without breaking the bank. It’s also pretty awesome for pen and ink sketches. 🙂

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Faber Castell eMotion, Pilot 78G, small Elias Notebook in a Pentone case.

In this review:
Pen – Pilot 78G, Black, Fine Nib from Everything Calligraphy
Paper – Elias notepad also from Everything Calligraphy
Ink – Diamine Music Set – Vivaldi

Review: Kaweco Liliput, Broad

Review: Kaweco Liliput, Broad

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Here’s another pen that has been on my wishlist for a while. I’ve been waiting for Scribe to have new stocks of this pen because I didn’t want to have to buy it online. I actually prefer the Liliput fireblue, but this one is a close second. The minute I saw it at Scribe last week, I knew that I wanted to add it to my collection. So I bought it even if the nib is broad and I generally prefer medium nibs. Look at that little cutie! It’s seriously no larger than a cigarette, and just a tiny bit longer than my pocket swiss knife.

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It’s only 97mm long when capped and it’s a cylindrical shape, streamlined and minimalist in appearance. There are no clips available for this pen. It was really designed to be diminutive and simple in the way that it looks. I think that Kaweco makes the best pocket pens in the market. I love their ALSport line but I must admit that the Liliput is by far its prettiest pocket pen yet (for me, at least). Since it’s made of brass, it’s also got a comfortable heft to it, much like the AL Sport. It doesn’t feel flimsy at all, and the heft makes it easy to write with. It also will develop a nice patina over time, being hand-machined out of brass. 🙂

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Kaweco Liliput fits Alunsina’s KISLAP perfectly in size and design.

I often just put it in my pocket because it doesn’t seem to be vulnerable to scratches. I put it in a leather pouch and it came out with some faint-looking stains that polished off easily. It’s pretty refreshing to bring a pen that you don’t have to be extremely careful with. So far I’ve tried to shake it to see if it will burp out ink but it remained burp-free.

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Being a pocket pen, it only uses cartridges, no converters. I’m not sure if kaweco’s squeeze converter will fit here, I should give that a try when I visit Scribe this week. The cap screws off the section and screws on at the end of the barrel. I like that it screws off when it posts because sometimes the cap gets pushed off while writing. It’s a very short pen and it would be uncomfortable to use while unposted. Being very small and the ends smooth and rounded, it’s sometimes a challenge to screw the cap at the end when you’re in a hurry. Also, for a small pen, the section is pretty comfortable in length, I like that a lot. I think it’s what makes the pen easy to hold and comfortable to use despite its size.

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I like the little details of the pen. The KAWECO logo, the little etched typography around the cap, even the nib has a bit of scrollwork on it too. It is a pretty nice touch. I’ve always liked Kaweco’s nibs.

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The only problem I had with this pen was that it wouldn’t write properly when I first got it. It’s my first time to encounter a baby’s bottom on a nib. I didn’t want to return it to Scribe because I believe fountain pen users should have a rudimentary knowledge of how to fix pens that just won’t write well out of the box.

Baby’s bottom is when the bottom of the nib is too smooth or too polished that the ink does not properly flow when the nib makes contact with paper. I followed this tutorial to fix the baby’s bottom issue. Please note though that you must proceed with caution because polishing the nib the wrong way can ruin your pen completely. You may polish off the iridium point entirely or make it flat at an odd angle. If you want to follow the tutorial in the link, do so at your own risk and take it slow.

After solving the baby’s bottom issue, I flossed it a bit with acetate to make it write wetter and flushed it with soapy water (then rinsed with water) to get rid of any residual chemicals on the feed. I admit though that it still needs some work because sometimes it hard starts a tiny bit (as you can see on the video). Either that or it needs a wetter ink. Point is, the pen didn’t write well out of the box. If I had not been determined to fix it, I would’ve needed to return the pen and since it’s the last stock at Scribe, I would’ve been disappointed to come home without a replacement. Once I did fix the baby’s bottom issue, though, it writes pretty well (occasional hard-starting notwithstanding).

Here’s a video of the writing sample. Pardon some of the skipping in the writing, I tend to lift my hand sometimes while I write so the nib isn’t really in contact with the paper. It hard-started for a bit but when I got it going, it was writing continuously and consistently.

All in all, I think the Kaweco Liliput is a pretty nice pen if you’re willing to work a bit on the nib. I would’ve appreciated it if it worked fine out of the box, and it’s weird that my friend also had the same experience with her two Kaweco Sports. My other two Kawecos didn’t have baby’s bottom but I did need to floss them to increase the flow. I accept nib adjustments as basically a part of pen ownership, so I don’t mind as much. The pen’s aesthetics is spot on, and I like that it’s heavy and easy to hold even if it is so tiny. Since it is a pocket pen, I don’t expect it to perform like full-sized pens with regards to long writing sessions. However, so far it has held up pretty well when I use it for long journal entries (four pages of closely spaced lines without any hint of the ink varying in thickness).

Despite the initial difficulties in making it write, I must admit that it’s pretty hard to dislike this pen.

In this review:
Kaweco Liliput (brass), Broad nib
Ink – Diamine Green Black (from Elias Notebook’s ink samples)
Paper – Elias notepad from everythingcalligraphy.com