Monday, 20 April 2015

Battle Wolf (Weekend Art of Pens Sketch 1)

Art of Pens Sketch 1

Fountain Pen: Platinum Preppy (Black 0.3 & Red 0.5 & Highlighter Yellow) and Oaso (F) Fountain Pen (Turquoise).

Inks: Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black, Pilot Red Ink, Pelikan M205 Duo Yellow Highlighter Ink and Waterman Inspired Blue. 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Montblanc Meisterstuck "Mini Mozart"

(1) Background: 

Let me start by saying: this pen is not mine. I wish it was, but it's not. I saw it, dusty and dirty, sitting very innocuously in my boss's penholder about a month or so ago and I was naturally fascinated. I started hunting around online for the identity of this very elusive, tiny little burgundy pen, which I knew of course to be a Montblanc given the iconic white star emblazoned on the top of the cap (see picture below).

After several googling sessions, I stumbled upon this fountain pen network thread

From there I knew exactly what pen my boss had; the "Meisterstück Hommage À W.A. Mozart Fountain Pen (Small Size)" (see the official Montblanc page here), quite a mouth full, so I'll just refer to it simply as the "Mini Mozart".

When I had happened to be in my boss's room again, I brought up the topic of the little burgundy pen, and sheepishly asked: "can I have a look at it?". He laughed, knowing that I was a fountain pen enthusiast, and permitted me to do so. He then told me that the Mini Mozart had been given to him, many years ago, as a gift and that he had stopped using it because he just didn't have time to maintain it properly.

I immediately offered to take the Mini Mozart home with me over the weekend to clean it and get it back to him in a good writing state. This is why I will be reviewing the Mini Mozart in today's post (though I had originally planned to do a write-up of the Onishi Seisakusho Celluloid Fountain Pen as part of my "Invaluable Pens" series of posts).

(2) Specifications and Aesthetics: 

Finish: Burgundy with Gold Finishes, the centre band on the cap is also nicely engraved with the words "Montblanc - Meisterstück" (see picture below).

Measurements: The Mini Mozart is a very small pen; with a length of 10.7 cm (capped), 9.2 cm (uncapped and unposted) and 11.3 cm (posted). It has  a barrel diameter of 0.9 cm (at its thickest point). 

Nib: The nib is 14 Karat gold and it is beautifully engraved (see picture above).

Design: As you will you note in the previous two pictures above there are a 2 thin gold bands just before the nib and the end of the barrel. The rings have threads and allow the cap to screw on securely when the pen is either capped or posted. I love this feature of the Mini Mozart because it posts so securely; you won't feel the cap wobble as you write. This makes the pen feel as if you were writing with a single unit. This allows for the Mini Mozart to stay pocket-sized but writes and feels like a regular-sized pen (see picture below).

(3) The Cleaning Process: 

I didn't manage to take pictures while I was actually cleaning the pen, but  trust me when I say the pen was in a terrible state. There was dry ink encrusted on the nib, feed and in the barrel itself. The pen hadn't been used in such a long time that whatever little ink was left in the cartridge had turned into a gooey little blob which wouldn't budge no matter how hard you shook the cartridge.

(Nib, Cap and Barrel - sorry for the over exposed picture!)

I washed the pen under cool running tap water, flushed the nib/feed with a syringe and then left the pen submerged in water for about 5 - 6 hours. Even after the thorough flushing (with clear water coming out the nib), there was still hidden/encrusted ink dissolving into the water from the nib as it slowly soaked in the water.

(4) Re-Inking the Pen: 

Because the Mini Mozart is so small, I didn't think it would take a converter (the official Montblanc page confirms this, see also picture above), so I used a needle and syringe to refill the same cartridge that was originally in the pen (see picture below).

(5) Writing Experience: 

The Mini Mozart's broad nib lays down a very thick and "juicy" line (i.e. extremely wet, see writing sample above). The 14 Karat gold nib is soft and does allow for slight line variation with minimal strength. The nib also feels incredibly smooth on paper. Even on low-grade copier paper it feels fantastically smooth (when it can sometime feel like writing on sandpaper, especially with my cheaper fine-nibbed pens).

However, that being said this particular Mini Mozart nib does suffer from a little bit of "baby's bottom" due to the over polishing of the nib, and therefore does have some occasional starting issues (see Richard Pen's glossary entry for baby's bottom). Though it is not too major an issue, it can still be a little frustrating at times. To be honest, this has to be, by far, the smoothest writing experience I have ever had. I simply love the way this pen writes and glides across the page.

Overall, writing feels effortless with the Mini Mozart, and this is one of those pens that immediately and unconsciously improves the user's handwriting as the nib sails across the page.

(6) Conclusion: 

I personally don't believe in the mantra "the more expensive the better". From my few google searches online, I found a second-hand Mozart Mini going on ebay for about US$333 (about S$450, see here) and another ebay entry which states that the recommended retail price is about US$485 (about S$650, see here). 

Needless to say, this is not a cheap pen, and it is already considered the cheapest in the "140" series of Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pens. If you were to ask me: "is this pen worth the price?", then I would say "no", unless I could easily afford it (i.e. if I was Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark). 

I say this because (a) it is plagued by minor starting issues (due to the "baby's bottom"), and (b) that would mean that at some later stage the nib will have to be reworked by a nibmeister and potentially cost the owner some out-of-pocket expense. As I have often mentioned, I prefer thicker and heftier pens and (c) the Mini Mozart is a tiny pen, which makes it an incongruous match for a "beefier" guy like me. Though I do admit that the Mini Mozart is beautiful, well-made with high quality materials, (d) I however still don't see the economic sense of purchasing this pen unless you are getting it at a greatly discounted price, or as a status symbol, or as a fantastic gesture of someone else's generosity.

See also Inky Preacher's charming retelling of how he came to own and rediscover his own Mini Mozart here, which is testament to how easily a person can fall in love with a Mini Mozart and form sentimental bonds with a fountain pen, which far exceeds any monetary value attached to it.

Having used the Mini Mozart for just a short period of time (over the weekend), it has become something of a "gateway drug" for me and I have proudly and defiantly declared to my wife that I will be getting my very own Montblanc pen sometime in the future, and I will be looking out for a good/mint condition second-hand MB with a decent price!

For another very detailed review (with great pictures too!) of the Mini Mozart, see Hari317's FPN post here.

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Waterman Hemisphere (Invaluable Pens Part 1 of 3)

For this week's post, I'll be reviewing 1 of the most invaluable pens that I currently have in my collection. Aside from the price of the pen itself, I have placed a good amount of sentimentality and significance in the pen for my own personal reasons. 

(Top: Waterman Hemisphere / Bottom: Onishi Seisakusho Celluloid Fountain Pen)

Preface: I started out this post intending to write a review of the Waterman Hemisphere, however, as I began typing, I realised that it morphed into more of a "how I got into fountain pens" type of post. It just goes to show how much this pen means to me. This post will also be Part 1 of a 3 part series of posts where I will be discussing the Onishi Seisakusho Celluloid Fountain Pen next.

I hope you don't mind my ramblings and still enjoy the post! 

(1.a) The Waterman Hemisphere ("the Hemisphere")

Background / History: If you've read the "My Pen Collection" page, you'll know that the Hemisphere was a wedding gift from my wife's uncle who lives and works in Hong Kong. This is therefore the first and oldest pen in my collection (I've had this pen for slightly more than 2 years now, me and my wife just celebrated our 2nd Wedding Anniversary several weeks back!).

(two-toned blue Waterman Pen Box)

The pen came very nicely gift wrapped, and it was presented to me the night before the wedding. I still remember opening the two-toned blue Waterman box and finding the gold and black Hemisphere inside, needless to say I was blown away. I remember uncapping the pen and seeing how shiny and reflective the gold-plated nib was. I was awestruck. I was speechless. I stood there just admiring the shape of the nib for the longest time. 

When I think back, I honestly believe that that might have been the very first time I actually held a fountain pen in my hands. Though I remember vaguely that my father had once owned a vintage Mont Blanc Meisterstuck (which has since been lost to time), I had however never actually touched it, I was of course too young to ever be allowed to handle something so costly.

When I had asked my wife's uncle, a long time after, why he had decided to give me a fountain pen, he then explained that it was because I was just starting out on my career. He therefore felt that I should be equipped with a good fountain pen to accompany me on my epic journey into the unknown. 

I could tell right away that he had put a lot of thought into the gift, and he had hoped to "pass the torch" like how he had once received a fountain pen too; to mark his transition into adulthood and into the working world. To this day, my wife's uncle is still using his own Hemisphere at work.

Another thing that struck me at the time was the exact words that my wife's uncle uttered to me when he saw how much I admired the Hemisphere. He said: "Ah, it's just something inexpensive, really!". The Hemisphere is still currently the most expensive pen that I own. To me that also showed just how humble and unassuming my wife's uncle really is. Of all my in-laws, he is the one that I can relate to the most, and the one that I feel understands me best.

(1.b) A Mini Review of The Hemisphere:

Finish: Matt Black with (23 Karat) Gold Trim Finishes (see the Hemisphere on Waterman's official website here).

Cost: I have seen the Hemisphere retailing online and at various boutique shops / Waterman counters (in departmental stores) in Singapore for about S$130 - S$150. As far as I know, the Hemisphere is actually considered the lower-range or entry level Waterman fountain pen.

Converter/Cartridge: One thing that I love about the Hemisphere is that it takes standard (short) international cartridges (depending on the model of the Waterman pen, I have read that there may be some difficulty closing the pen see this FPN thread). I was pleasantly surprised when I realised this because Waterman, like a lot of other established fountain pen brands, has its own proprietary converters and cartridges. Though the Hemisphere typically does not come with a converter right out of the box, mine did, probably due to my wife's uncle's thoughtfulness.

Impressions: The Hemisphere is thicker in the middle and is tapered at both ends. My initial impression of the pen was that it was thin and small, possibly even too thin and too small for my hands. But because it is thicker in the middle, it still allows for a comfortable writing experience. The Hemisphere is however deceptively much heavier than it actually looks. For a lack of a better description, the Hemisphere feels (and indeed looks) like an expensive fountain pen. It is a solidly made pen, and even the converter does not rattle in the barrel when it is shaken vigorously.

 (extra details that make the Hemisphere unique)

As for its aesthetics, I really like the slit in the middle of the clip and the "cut-off" slope at the top of the cap. These 2 deliberate and extraneous finishes give the Hemisphere a very "modern" look  and makes the pen look unique. Overall, the Hemisphere is undeniably a very sleek and beautiful pen.

The nib is also very nicely engraved with Waterman markings, as is the gold ring at the end of the cap (see photo above). If I haven't already sold you on its looks, check out the promotional video below!

Writing Experience:

The nib is made of steel and then plated with 23 Karat gold, and because of the underlying steel, the nib is stiff and does not allow for any line variation. For a "Fine" nib, it also writes nicely. As for the ink flow, the feed keeps up with even the most furious of scribblings. I have not experienced any skipping with the Hemisphere.

What I Dislike: There are really only 2 things that I dislike about this pen (which is of course specific to my own personal preference and you may not feel the same as I do). These dislikes however are not fatal to my overall love of the pen and are easily overcome.

First, would be that I dislike posting the Hemisphere when I write. Because of the extra metallic embellishments on the cap and at the end of the barrel (which actually make this pen look stunning), it makes the pen feel very "back heavy" and unwieldy when writing. It feels almost as if someone is holding onto the back of the barrel (and very gently pulling downwards) as you write. Of course the only way around this would be to NOT post the pen, I typically just leave the cap on the table, or hold it in my spare (left) hand as I write.

Second, I found the small capacity of the converter (0.5ml of ink) and the opaqueness of the barrel to be a really frustrating combo. On several occasions, I had brought the Hemisphere for work meetings and thereafter had the pen run out of ink completely. Now, I typically use only clear demonstrators during my work meetings (i.e. my TWSBI 580). A simple solution to avoiding this would be to just check the amount of ink left in the converter before heading off for a meeting, however because I always find myself rushing while at work, I rarely have the time to stop and check the converter.

But again, this is specific to me and my work. I however would say that this pen was meant for a much more cultured and slow-paced lifestyle (i.e. during the time of fair Ladies and genteel Gentlemen), where the average person still wrote letters at their desk and had the liberty to refill their pens midway through their work day. I however do not have the luxury of time; my work is fast-paced and stressful; like most other modern-day work environs.

Though I may not use the Waterman for work meetings, I do however use the Waterman when I am sitting at my cubicle. I use it to jot down quick notes or to draw up my to-do-list for the day.

(1.c) Conclusion:

The Hemisphere is a decent writer, but I love this pen more so for the background and story that it comes with. That being said, I would consider this pen to be an heirloom pen and something that I would want to pass down to my children. Again this would be a testament of how much this pen means to me personally. 

As for whether I would recommend this pen to someone else, I would think not, simply because I believe that there are better pens out there (that write smoother and objectively look better too), and that you could get for the same price or less (granted that in Europe a Waterman Hemisphere might only cost about 40 to 50 Euros, in Asia that is not the case). I realised too that a lot of the cost in making this pen went into its aesthetics (and brand prestige) rather than the actual writing experience for the user.