upgrade my fountain pen

Q&A: Why should I upgrade my fountain pen?

upgrade my fountain pen

Our guide to spending a little bit more on a fountain pen

Introduction

So you are considering upgrading your fountain pen for a smarter, more expensive model. But what will you get for your money? You have maybe dipped your toe in the water and bought your first fountain pen. Now persuaded of the joys of using a fountain pen, your thoughts have turned to where you go next.

So having let your mind wander to what other pens are out there and what spending a little bit more might get you, this article is an attempt at giving some basic advice in terms of what to look for when moving from an entry-level pen to a mid-range pen.

What is an entry level pen?

lamy safari fountain pen

Typically most people will start here. This is most likely because of cost. A first pen might come in around £15-20 and even that can be a big investment when you are making the step up from say a ballpoint pen (dare I suggest you made the leap from a Bic biro to fountain pen?).

That is not to say that an entry level pen is not one that won’t last you a lifetime. Typically these pens might be something like the Lamy Safari fountain pen, the Kaweco Skyline, or maybe even a TWSBI Eco or the Pilot MR (aka the Pilot Metropolitan). All come in at under £30, some for under £20. All are great pens and will serve you well for many a year. But if you do want more…

What is a mid-range pen?

lamy aion fountain pen

For the purposes of this article, a mid-range fountain pen has been defined as being one that costs over and above an entry-level, but not into the eye-watering levels that you can pay. So this has been set at a more modest level of between £40 and £75.

Also, since entry-level will vary from brand to brand, it is deemed to be pens that display elements of being an upgrade on a more basic pen.

Key reasons to upgrade

So why upgrade? Well it becomes ever harder to actually justify the step up purely on value for money. There are gains to be had by spending more, certainly, but it is also an emotional decision and there is no point skirting round this. Nevertheless there are some clear benefits to be had from spending a bit more.

Material

Whilst your entry-level pen will typically be made of plastic, you would certainly expect your mid-range pen to be made of a superior material. More often that not this will be metal, likely aluminium as it is lightweight and perfect for a pen. It makes for a more solid, durable pen than plastic, yet you will not be adding any serious weight to the pen. In fact the slight extra weight might make the pen better as it adds just enough to make it feel substantial without being heavy.

You may also find that this extends to all elements of the pen – look for what the clip and grip sections are made from.

Tip – consider what material you would feel comfortable writing with, and what weight of pen would suit you, and check the full specification.

Nib

This is something that will vary from pen to pen, and a lot of mid-range pens will not necessarily have a better nib that your entry-level pen. For example many Lamy pens have the same Z50 nib, from the Safari and ABC through to a Scala or Accent. Others like the Aion do have a better nib, in this case the new Z53 nib. It is more likely that the extra cost of the pen will get you a better barrel than a better nib but it is worth checking.

Also, a more expensive pen may actually have access to a better range of nib sizes although this again will depend on each manufacturer.

Tip – how important would a better nib be at this stage? This may require you pushing your budget even further.

Features

This will vary from pen to pen but a more expensive pen might come with a few extra features or add-ons. Certainly most Lamy pens above a certain value will come with a converter. Other entry-level pens may not come with a gift box (worth considering if it is a gift for someone).

Tip – consider all aspects of what you want from your pen – don’t just be seduced by the look!

Design

The design of the pen is where there will be marginal gains in making the pen better – possibly a better grip section, or the way the cap can be posted or the way the clip works. Small improvements but it can make a real difference especially with a pen, which requires a good connection between hand and pen.

Tip – consider what you like the least about your current pen and in what ways it could be improved. Then consider your ‘new’ pen in light of this.

Style

This is where the choice becomes more emotional. Typically a more expensive pen will be better designed, and may even have been designed by a well-known product designer. This might not make it a better at writing, but owning a pen that you love might make a difference. A pen you want to write with because it looks good is a pen you will enjoy writing with all the more.

Tip – this all comes down to personal preference. Only you know what you like.

Other tips

If you are still unsure then read a few reviews. Think about what you don’t like with your current pen and consider whether a new pen will answer some or all of these problems. And if still unsure then see if you can try out the pen in person. We do offer a try before you buy service with pens but please do check with us first as we can’t offer this on all pens.

Grey Inks Comparisons

10 shades of grey ink

Grey Inks Comparisons

Introduction

Grey is a colour that we haven’t really explored before. This post (and the next one to come) really is a sequel to Diamine Earl Grey ink which seems to be a trend setter. A lot of our friends asked for a side-by-side comparison, I looked around for more grey ink and found 10 in our sampling station 🙂 These 10 inks are all grey, but as you will see, they are not the same. We haven’t done this layout before, so please drop us a line in comments with your feedback. Do you have/use grey ink at all, if so which is your favourite? Inks were tested on Rhodia dot paper with a glass pen. You can zoom in on photos for the details too. Enjoy!

Diamine – Grey

This is probably the first grey ink that comes to mind… Subtle, shades well, very universal. Can’t go wrong with this one. Diamine inks come in 80ml bottles and are fantastic value for money.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Grey

Diamine – Graphite

Dark grey with green components which are very apparent in this ink. It’s almost black, colour is mossy and perfectly legible. Available in 80ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Graphite

J Herbin 1670 – Stormy Grey

It’s difficult not to take sides here, but this ink is the one that started a revolution of Shimmer – I love it 🙂 Base colour grey shades beautifully and it’s complimented with gold particles. Inked permanently in my Lamy 2000 <3 Available in 50ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : J Herbin 1670 - Stormy Grey

J Herbin – Gris Nuage

One of the paler colours from the bunch. Warm grey with purple undertones and decent shading. Fantastic grey ink for painting/colouring with water brush. Available in 30ml bottles, 10ml bottles and cartridge form.

Grey Inks Comparisons : J Herbin - Gris Nuage

Diamine – Earl Grey

We wrote a short story about this ink here. Fantastic rich colour with strong purple tint and delicate shading. Available soon.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Earl Grey

KWZ – Grey Lux

Satin smooth ink to write with. This is one of the darkest grey inks. Very complex, satudated and made out of many dyes, almost black when dry. Absolute joy to use. Available in 60ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : KWZ - Grey Lux

Diamine – Sparkling Shadows

First generation of Diamine’s Shimmering inks. Grey with gold specs. Available in 50ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Sparkling Shadows

Diamine – Moon Dust

Jo’s number one ink 🙂 Pencil-like colour with silver shimmer. Fantastic name too. Second generation of Diamine Shimmer inks. Available in 50ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Moon Dust

Iroshizuku – Kiri Same

Light grey ink with expressive shading. This ink flows well as you can imagine all Iroshizuku inks do. Available in 50ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Iroshizuku - Kiri Same

Kaweco – Smokey Grey

Colder grey ink with green undertones and quick dry times. Shading is visible and the smoke in the name represents the colour well. It comes in both 30ml bottle and cartridge version.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Kaweco - Smokey Grey
the journal shop stand

London Stationery Show 2017

the journal shop stand

The London stationery show has been a staple of the Bureau calendar for many a year now.

It’s situated in the functional Business Design Centre where once a year, stationery geeks gather to share the best and newest in the biz. This event also coincides with National Stationery Week which quite simply celebrates what we all love – stationery 🙂 #natstatweek

It is a trade show so unfortunately not open to the public. So Mishka, Emma and Faisal were tasked with being your eyes and ears 🙂 Here is what they have to report.

business design centre

Our expectations

We all had differing expectations. Mishka now has two Stationery Shows under her belt, Faisal’s second time out and rookie on the block Emma.

Mishka: Half of our team visited on Tuesday, me and Faisal went on Wednesday. This was my 3rd show in a row, so I knew what to expect – lots of amazing stationery! 🙂 I knew time would be tight so I did my homework. Carefully clicking through all the exhibitors (100+), I made a list of stands I wanted to visit and products I wanted to see.

Some things never change – it is the same beautiful venue. This year there were a lot of workshops – I was particularly interested in trying Calligraphy. #writingmatters

Faisal: To be quite frank, I was feeling a little down on going to the London Stationery Show this year. I remembered enjoying my first time out to the show last year but would it be any different this time around? How much could really change over the course of the year? These doubts had begun to brew, possibly unfairly, as I am surrounded by the same old stuff on my desk.

With this mindset, I hadn’t actually planned to go around and explore the show floor too much, thinking there wouldn’t really be much new to see anyway. I settled on killing my time with a safe looking programme of seminars and workshops that would be running throughout the day.

Emma: I only joined Bureau Direct late last year, so this was my first London Stationery Show. I have been to trade shows before, but I have always wanted to go to a stationery trade show! Having heard all about it from the rest of the team, I was really excited to be getting a first look at some new products, meeting with some of my clients, and generally geeking out over lots of lovely pens and paper goods!

2017

National Stationery Show 2017 - hall

2016

london stationery show at the business design centre

2015

National Stationery Show

First Impressions

Emma: I have been to the Business Design Centre in Islington before; its a lovely venue with lots of natural light, and not too big.  I confidently told the rest of the team I would visit the show in the morning, and be back after lunch (needless to say, that didn’t happen. What was I thinking?!). When you first enter the venue, there is a smallish floor space at ground floor level, and then steps behind leading up to a central mezzanine where the bulk of the exhibitors were.  There were also additional exhibitors on the balconies surrounding the hall. Immediately, my eye was drawn to a central New Product Showcase display, with lots of new launches, and from there on in I tried to work my way up and down the aisles is a logical way, without being too distracted!

Mishka: Me and Faisal were in on the Wednesday, as soon as we entered we were met with the display of stationery award winners which were whittled down from the same stand a day earlier. There was a spectacular range of colour this year – lucky cat pencil pot immediately caught my eye. I love everything teal/mint, so I was glad to see #everythingteal

Faisal: Lucky for me then that the Stationery Gods (and Mishka) had other arrangements to my earlier pessimism. Walking through the open doors, you start to feel an extra bounce to your step with your eyes wide and ears pricked. We both took a deep breath and a good whiff of the scent of freshly opened stationery in the air. There’s no turning back once you’ve opened this Pandora’s box. Everything looked fresh and new but I felt right at home, ready to explore!

calligraphy workshop

Calligraphy workshop

Emma: I had wanted to go to the show on the first (Tuesday) morning, because there was a Modern Calligraphy workshop being held by Manuscript pens and Joyce Lee of Artsynibs. Its a tall order trying to teach a mixed ability group in the middle of a trade show, in 30 mins, but Joyce was incredibly patient (and fun!), teaching us to sit in the right position, hold the dip pens the right way, and most importantly, relax, and BREATHE.  We each came away with a couple of practice sheets and the basics with which to start practising; seeing examples of Joyce’s beautiful calligraphy has certainly inspired me.

Faisal: Having only amateurishly attempted calligraphy for a few minutes, a couple of months ago, hastily on some scraps of paper… this was a brilliant chance to get an initial step up to the table.

The one big thing I took away from that day was the posture. To help keep your writing steady you need a solid position for your arm on the table. Achieving this means angling your chair into the desk so your elbow has a good position on the table. I would have never in my life ever conceived this simple step would instantly improve all my strokes!

Mishka: I can proudly announce that by 10:35 our clean fingers were already splattered in ink 🙂 Joyce is an amazing artist and great teacher. Slowing down and being mindful about every stroke is what makes calligraphy almost zen like. I’d love to just sit there and play with flex dip pens all day… We were discussing printing paper templates at the table – you know you are in the good company when gsm comes up 🙂

Bureau’s Best Bits

Mishka: Paper Republic Grand Voyageur – notebook with leather cover. Similar to Traveler’s notebook which is incredibly trendy at the moment. Packaging, colours (green with red), presentation, sizes and functionality. Everything about this product presses all my stationery buttons…

The most fun stationery of the show award goes to the magnetic Polar pen. We probably spent an hour making shapes and launching magnets in the air and we continue to do so even as I write this 🙂 Andrew, the creator of the pen is a true inventor with plenty of ideas up his sleeve. I really hope to see his creations doing well…

I was eager to try out the Pentel Hybrid gel pens which Emma told me about the day before. These gels are rather magical. Believe it or not, but they look differently on white and black paper. Green turns into blue, black into red etc – whaaat?! Amazing! Imagine Emerald of Chivor ink in a gel pen 🙂 I salute you Pentel…Year in and year out you come up with new ideas, really well done!

Paper Republic - Leather!

Paper Republic stand leather covers

POLAR pens - Magnets!

polar pen magnet fun

Emma: Stabilo Boss Pastel Highlighters. They looked so pretty in the display, and gorgeously photogenic. I have a set of four, but now I realise there are actually six in the range. Two more for my shopping list…

The Karlbox. A collaboration between fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld and Faber-Castell, this is the ultimate art set. West Design had a box on display at the show, and I couldn’t help but drool a little over it. Designed like a lacquer jewellery box, each drawer is organised by colour with pencils, markers, pastels and art pens – the entire rainbow. It has a limited production run, and retails at least £2000, but its oh so covetable!

Getting to make my own pen on the Kaweco stand!  I got to choose a cap, grip section, barrel and fit them together. A couple of satisfying ‘clunks’ from their hand-operated machines, hey presto! My very own Kaweco Skyline was born.

Stabilo Boss Pastel

Stabilo Boss Pastel highlighters

The Karlbox

Faber-Castell The KarlBox

Faisal: As a veteran of one previous show so far this was also a must do event for me. Last year we had a whole plastic barrel of fun with the Studio Pen team and had an awesome collage of how we made them. This year me and Mishka wanted to step up our game and bring you a live demonstration! It was all going so well, we got the camera rolling and the machine clunking away.

It’s hard to pick my favourite but I will go out and say I had the most fun with the Polar magnet pen. Even though it will be rarely used to write with, it’s was just an absolute joy to have and play with! Perfect for a quick stress relieving break in the office.

Special mention

Mishka: The best writer of the show goes to Manuscript 1856 pen.
This was on my ‘must see’ list after browsing online the night before. Manuscript hosted the Calligraphy event in the morning so as soon I waved goodbye to Joyce it took all my strength to stick to my planned route instead of running straight to their stand.

Let me tell you…It was love at the first sight. Each pen is turned by hand. The materials look spectacular. They have a choice for everyone, starting with a professional pocket percher in black. I was a bit dismissive of the beige but looking at it closely I saw the subtle elegance of the material, showing up like the calm looking surface of Saturn. The real stars of the show were the pearlescent and swirly type acrylics. Purple and turquoise finishes for the chic and red and orange for the brave.

I ran home with one in my bag, eager to ink it up and boy oh boy… Smooth like butter. Steel nibs can be as smooth as gold and this pen is exactly that. Big win in my book 🙂

Manuscript 1856 fountain pen
Manuscript 1856 fountain pen

In conclusion

Mishka: I’m so glad that I could go to the show – my creative juices and love for stationery have been refuelled 🙂 Big thanks to the organizers, we had a great show!

Emma: The show was everything I expected, and more.  I ended up spending the whole day there, catching up with some of my contacts at Castelli, Moleskine and Caran d’Ache/Faber-Castell, playing with new products, and looking for stationery items that can be branded for our corporate clients.

Faisal: I was happily swayed by the end of the day, the Stationery show was great. These sorts of events just give you a breath of fresh air and sometimes that’s all you need. Actually, I wish I had more time to peruse the stalls. Unlike my colleagues I don’t think I even got around to seeing half of the stands really. Perhaps a bit too much time playing with magnets… 🙂

Faisal, Mishka and Emma

ps: we will see you again next year 🙂

polarpen smiley magnets
the price of ink

Q&A: Is Bottled Ink Cheaper Than Cartridges?

The Price Of Ink

the price of ink

It is a question often asked – is bottled ink cheaper than cartridges? Is it more economical to buy ink in bottles or go for the simplicity of cartridges? And if it is cheaper, how much cheaper is bottled ink? Well I decided there was only one way of resolving this problem – find out how much ink costs pound for milliliter. And with the results in we have a clear winner and sort of an answer to the question.

Is bottled ink cheaper than cartridge ink?

Bottled ink - Price per ml

Diamine 8p per ml
Lamy T52 19p per ml
Diamine Shimmer 20p per ml
KWZ 22p per ml
Lamy T51 22p per ml
Blackstone 23p per ml
Herbin D 23p per ml
KWZ Iron Gall 28p per ml
Herbin Scented 30p per ml
Herbin 1670 Anniversary 30p per ml
Robert Oster 30p per ml
Edelstein 34p per ml
Herbin Mini 38p per ml
Kaweco 40p per ml
Herbin 1798 Les Encres 42p per ml
Blackstone Barrier 47p per ml
Kyoto 50p per ml
Colorverse 56p per ml
Pilot Iroshizuku 64p per ml

Cartridges - Price per ml

Lamy T10 Cartridges 20p per ml
Monteverde Cartridges 24p per ml
Kaweco Cartridges 32p per ml
Herbin Cartridges 55p per ml

Well, the simple answer is yes – bottled ink is cheaper than cartridges. However it is surprising how little there was in it, in some cases not at all. Take Lamy ink – at 20p per ml in T10 cartridge form it isn’t that much more expensive than bottled T52 ink which comes in at 15p per ml. And Kaweco ink cartridges actually came in cheaper than their bottled ink. But if you want real value then of course a bottle of Diamine ink will see you through for a long time with an 80ml bottle costing just 8p per ml.

To be clear, these results were based on our retail prices as of 1 May 2017, across all bottled and cartridge inks in our range. For cartridge ink there was a small problem because no one seems to quote the volume of a cartridge, but general consensus seems to suggest that a small cartridge (e.g. Kaweco or Herbin) is 0.9ml and a larger cartridge like the Lamy T10 is 1.5ml so I based all calculations on those volumes.

winter stationery

Winter Stationery

anatomy of winter stationery

Anatomy of a winter stationery scene

As we clear up after Storm Doris and the newspapers are full of winter weather bombs, it’s time to squeeze in a quick winter stationery blast from the colder recesses of our warehouse. Inspired by the obvious lead item – the Field Notes Black Ice edition was create with winter in mind – I assembled a collection of wintery themed stationery. Enjoy them all before the first green shoots arrive, spirng is upon us and everything goes green and yellow.

From Nordic Blue notebooks to Stormy Grey ink it might seem that there is a lot of winter stationery to choose from. In fact it proved very hard to find anything suitably themed around the idea of winter, especially if you try and avoid Christmas!

With help from Monica I did get there but it maybe says a lot about our aspirations that colours and products are notably leaning towards more hopeful seasons. Spring and summer obviously encourage positive thoughts and so people make and name their products and we duly buy them. Winter turns us off. That’s my theory anyway – here’s what I found in the meantime:

News: The Bureau Shop Is Open

bureau shop - lamy

It's been several years coming...

There’s a long back story to this which we will skip over, and get straight to the big news that we have opened a shop. We started out with a shop way back in 1995, in the bright lights of the West End, so it’s sort of going back to our roots, but then it’s also a long way from Great Newport Street to Scrubs Lane.

It’s certainly not a high-street shop but you can come by, browse, test and buy. The focus of the shop is really around pens, books and inks. Somewhere you can come and test out different pens with different inks on different papers and work out what works for you.

the bureau shop

We took inspiration from our appearance at the London Pen Show last autumn where, with KWZ Ink, we let people test out all their inks and it created a real buzz. In our new shop you can test out pens from Lamy as well as J. Herbin, TWSBI and Kaweco.

Perhaps of most interest will be the range of inks, and with some very generous support from the good people at Diamine we can offer their full range of inks to play with, as well as other inks.

Throw in some great paper from Rhodia, Taroko and others and what the shop won’t offer in terms of size and high-street glamour it will make up for in terms of being able to actually try before you buy.

The shop does come with some big caveats around location and hours. It is open during our office hours only, and we cannot offer parking. There is street parking outside (metered), and it is not the most glamourous of locations but don’t let Scrubs Lane put you off. Cold industrial wasteland on the outside, warm and inviting on the inside.

Closest tube station is Willesden Junction (approx. 10-15 min walk) or the 220 bus stops right outside (Hythe Road stop).

Opening hours

Monday to Friday, 9.30 to 5.00

A big thank you to the following suppliers who have very generously supported this venture by providing samples:

Diamine Ink

KWZ Ink

Kaweco

london stationery show - pencils

London Stationery Show 2016

 london stationery show at the business design centre The team visit to #LSS16

Trade fairs form a regular part of our routine, with annual pilgramages to all sorts of exotic places from Olympia here in London to the NEC in Birmingham and the Messe in Frankfurt. In recent years though the dominant show for stationery buyers (like us) has been the London Stationery Show. Here in London, handily, as the name would suggest. It has certainly put the other UK shows in the shade, and we have been invited to be judges on the show’s stationery awards panel for three of the past five years. Last year we sent Mishka there for a day to soak up the stationery-love (read her write up here) and this year we thought we would go nuclear and send the team. The irony here is that I didn’t go – too much happening back at Stationery HQ – but Jo went with Isaac on the Tuesday and then Mishka went with Pawel and Faisal on World Stationery Day. Read on to see what they have to say about the show.

 

Highlights

Our highlights of the show were:

  • Kaweco – their stand included a machine to let you customise and make your own fountain pen. This one had everyone talking!
  • Lamy – long-time favourites of ours but always good to meet them and of course the new dark lilac Safari was the highlight of their stand.
  • Castelli – they went with a sleek, minimal stand to showcase their new black-and-gold range.
  • Palomino and Midori – some of the more exotic stationery and which we are always happy to see.
  • Lots of new suppliers, some of which we are not at liberty to divulge…trade secrets. Mum’s the word!

 

london stationery show - pencils
coloured pencils at the london stationery show

Jo

The Stationery Show is always an good visit and this year was no exception with a couple of tempting new suppliers. Increasingly we find nothing to interest us at Spring/Autumn Fair, the two big UK trade shows in Birmingham and this year, for the first time, I didn’t even go. Most of our key suppliers are at the London Stationery Show so we get the chance to say hello and have a look at anything new. Kaweco had a fantastic stand with the option to make your own Ice Sport pen, which we all did. Very interesting to see how the pen is constructed. Hopefully we will be able to take on a few new items from the show but just for now they will have to remain under wraps…

kaweco at the london stationery show
Make your own Kaweco pen at the show

Mishka

This was my second visit to stationery show, so I knew what to expect.
Lovely stationery everywhere you looked and meeting people that we deal with every day – suppliers, distributors, reps…
This time I kept finding Faisal’s signature on paper pads everywhere 🙂 It was great to go and enjoy the day out with the rest of the team (expect their thorough reviews on our Stationery Wednesday blog).

Make your own postcard at the london stationery show
‘Make your own bird’ at the show

Faisal

For me, my first experience of the show was through my pen crazy colleague Mishka who attended last year. Leaving my phone with inundated with messages and photos of the weird and wonderful. That excitement trickled down and stuck with me so I was delighted this year I was given the chance to visit. And who better to go with than with the stationery guru herself (and Pawel!).
Walking through the iconic doors at the Business Design Centre and being handed my neck strap was more thrilling than it should have been. Holding our badges up proudly, we wandered down the rabbit hole and popped out into a swarm of cheery pink booths. It was overwhelming at first the sheer number of places to visit. Buzzing with excitement, the only thing you can do is just pick an aisle and see where it takes you.
Now to be honest, there are quite a few stands aimed at the supermarket and bargain bin consumers or the pretty-on-the-outside-nothing-of-substance-inside but you’ll find a handful of diamonds in the rough. When you do, it’s brilliant. There’s nothing quite like using fantastic paper from the far east or feeling the smooth precision of a German pen and then getting to talk about it with similarly passionate people behind them.
Going to the show isn’t all about new suppliers and products or prices (for me anyway!), it’s about having a little fun peek behind the curtains and hopefully finding something inspiring to share with the world.

pens at the london stationery show
A selection of Mark’s pens at the show

Isaac

The Stationery Show was a great chance to see what’s been happening in the world of stationery recently, and from what I saw, that seems to be primarily colouring books. Aside from that though we were given the opportunity to forge our own Kaweco pens, although forge might be the wrong word there were two rather ingenious machines that simply required that you place each part in and pull the lever in order to seal them together. Having made my first red Kaweco with a clear barrel I also decided it would be the perfect pen to turn into a red eyedropper when I got back to the office, which turned out pretty brilliantly!

show_stationery_isaac-pen
Isaac’s Kaweco pen turned into an eye-dropper

Also on another fun stationery note one of my favourite stands at the show contained seemingly thousands of collectible rubbers in the shapes of animals, food and other brightly coloured things. The whole place looked just like a sweet shop, and even I couldn’t resist taking a free hedgehog to keep on my desk, very adorable.

Fun erasers at the Make your own postcard at the london stationery show
Pick’n’mix erasers!

Pawel

As one of the newer members to the team, this was my first chance to visit the show, and I’m glad I did! It was great to be able to see some brand new stationery, and I’ve definitely noticed a black and gold trend at this year’s show. Many of the products that caught my eye also caught the attention of Jo and Mishka, so hopefully we’ll have lots of tantalising new items to offer. The Kaweco stand was especially fun, as they brought along their pen assembly machines and anyone who wanted to could walk away with their own “handmade” pen.

However, I have to say that the aspect that stuck with me most was being able to finally meet all of the great people that make up our suppliers, and that I pester every day with my emails. It can be easy to forget that you’re dealing with other people in today’s online world, so having the opportunity to put a face to a name was invaluable, and it was fun to geek out a bit about stationery new and old!

And as a final personal note, as a budding artist it was quite the “kid in a candy store” experience to see so many different art supplies – I don’t think I’ve seen so many Copic, Faber-Castell, Pentel, and Caran d’Ache pens and pencils in one place!

 

Quill pens at the Make your own postcard at the london stationery show
Quill pens

Summary

It was nice that we were able to send so many of them team this year. We talked about it after #LSS15 and agreed that when #LSS16 came around we would send anyone in the team who wanted to take it all in. They certainly seemed happy to see it all, especially since it removes any lingering doubt about how un-exotic trade fairs really are, and this was one of the nice ones! Wait till we pack them off to the NEC for the day… Of course it is a bit odd that yours truly didn’t make it, again. Too much on, same old story. I am sorry I missed the Kaweco machine in particular but such is life. I’m not sure I need another fountain pen just yet.

So here’s looking forward to #LSS17, World Stationery Day 2017 and more stationery enjoyment in the spring sunshine in North London.

Kaweco Classic Sport vs Lamy Vista

Head to Head Review

Introduction

The Lamy Vista, the clear version of the Safari, is one of our most popular pens and is definitely an entry level fountain pen, and it has been enduringly popular in our office. However since we’ve recently taken another range of pens under our wing, Kaweco, I’ve decided to pit what I think is the equivalent pen from their range against the Vista. The Classic Sport is in many ways the Kaweco equivalent of the Safari and it comes in a transparent version as well which I think is the closest you can get .

In the interest of ‘transparency’ (get it?), I will admit that I have been using a Lamy Vista exclusively for quite a few months, so its had plenty of time to win over my heart, thus this review might have a tiny bias towards the Vista. Although I have had my eye on the Kaweco pens for some time as well.vista_classic_sbs

Style

Both from well established German brands, the Sport and the Vista are design classics with a twist in that they are transparent. The same designs are available in a range of colours in the Lamy Safari range and the Kaweco Classic and Skyline ranges. The overall style of the Vista is very modern, everything is on show and either clear or shiny metal, the only style part I dislike is the size of the Lamy logo on it an the black plastic screw in the top. The Kaweco plastic is a little less clear in my opinion but still looks good. The Kaweco Classic has gold coloured trimmings that I think it make the pen look a bit more expensive than it actually is and the cap has the logo in gold rather than just a black screw top as found on the Vista.

The Kaweco overall I think is a bit more stylish, even though it takes a more classic approach and I would have preferred if it had a demonstrator like the Vista. This is obviously down to personal preference though.

Scores. Lamy: 8 Kaweco: 9

Features

This is where it comes down more to what you require from a fountain pen rather than personal taste.

Firstly the nibs of the two, you can change the nibs on the Vista very easily, which you can’t do with the Kaweco, you have to buy separate front parts of the pen. This won’t be a problem for people who know what size they prefer and won’t need to change it, but as someone who writes with a 1.1 Lamy nib most of the time but sometimes needs to change it to a medium or fine nib its very useful to be able to change the nib on the vista so readily.

In terms of the overall quality of the nibs I think the Vista wins, although I prefer the look of the gold Kaweco nib, especially with its decorative engravings, however the Lamy nib writes a little bit better even with cheaper inks.

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A little feature I had never really appreciated until I had to push my new cartridge into the Kaweco is the ridges inside the barrel of the Vista that allow you to simply place the cartridge in and then twist the barrel back on in order to attach it. This does impact the style aspect of the Vista in the at ridges give it less of a clean look but it is a very clever design element that a lot of people will appreciate.

One of the main features of a Kaweco that convinced me was the size of the pen, with its cap on it is about 3/4 the size of the Vista, making it superbly portable. The cap also screws on the Kaweco so there’s very little worry of it leaking whilst you keep it in your pocket. The way the cap forms part of the pen barrel when you post it is very clever and it fits quite comfortably in the hand.

The Vista, like the Safari, is known for their triangular ‘ergonomic’ grip, which I’ve found in the past does help me keep my pen in a good grip and at a consistent angle, however I do know people that don’t like the grip so it may not be for everyone. The Kaweco simply has a gently curved grip section, so whether you prefer this or not depends on how you hold your pen.

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The Vista also comes with a clip automatically, which the Kaweco does not. This means that there is an added cost if you do want a clip but it’s much easier to change them depending on your style. I personally don’t ever use the clip on my Vista so not having one doesn’t make a huge impact, in fact in makes the pen lighter and thus more portable, also the octagonal barrel design on the Kaweco stops it from rolling off your desk without a clip.

Now for the part that most fountain pen users might not even consider, and that is turning the pen into what is called an ‘eyedropper’. This is when you seal the pen so that you can fill the barrel completely with ink, increasing its capacity massively and in the case of a transparent pen, making it look very eye-catching. Of course this is not without risk, and a pen that is not properly sealed runs the risk of some serious leaking. Mishka has done a very thorough guide to converting the Lamy Vista into one of these, which due to the holes in the side and end takes a lot more steps than with the Kaweco. I turned my Kaweco into one simply by taking out the cartridge and squeezing the ink into the barrel with a pipette. Using Herbin Anniversary ink I think it looks great with the gold flecks inside, and so far I have had no leaks so this for me is a big boon in the favour of the Kaweco. Although I would only recommend doing this if you are confident with it and know the inky risks involved.

* N.B. It has leaked a little since converting to an eyedropper so I would advise following some of the steps in Mishka’s guide to make sure it is well sealed.

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So overall I think the Vista has lots of little design features that all add up to quite an impressive product but the fantastic portability of the Kaweco’s design and its easy transformation into an eyedropper keep it in line with the Vista.

Scores. Lamy: 9 Kaweco; 9

Usability

A lot of points about each pens usability have already been covered under features, but each pen is quite different to use; the Vista is slightly more comfortable to use and if you are using cartridges a bit easier to refill, but the Kaweco wins out for portability by a long stretch.

For writing its quite close but I think the Vista wins over longer stretches of writing due to the grip and comfort, but I feel like the medium nib on a Kaweco is ever so slightly thinner and I prefer the lines it writes.

The screw cap on the Kaweco helps me worry less about it leaking whilst I transport it in my pocket, but it also makes it slower to start writing since you have to post the cap. The Kaweco’s cap has also just been great as an object to fiddle with during the day so I’ll admit I don’t begrudge the extra time to unscrew it.

Scores. Lamy: 9 Kaweco: 8

Value for money

Both pens are definitely in the cheaper end of fountain pens, but the Vista is certainly a bit cheaper than the Kaweco, coming in at £13.95 as opposed to £17.95 for the Kaweco. This makes it a great and affordable first pen, but I think for people who have used a fountain pen before and are ready for something just one step up the Kaweco is a great pen, especially if you need to carry it around with you a lot. If you need a clip as well the total price of your Kaweco does go up so even though I don’t use one I must deduct a few points.

Scores. Lamy: 10 Kaweco: 8 

Verdict

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It’s been a closely fought race, and over the course of it I think I’ve managed to fall in love with both pens. Over time I wonder which pen I will actually use more, as the portability and style of the Kaweco really appeal to me, but as of writing this I think the Vista wins by virtue of its value for money and the ease of use. However I do whole heartedly recommend the Kaweco Sport as a good intro fountain pen, especially if you want something portable. I know I myself am currently saving up for a Brass Sport.

Total scores. Lamy: 36 Kaweco: 34

Click here to buy the Lamy Vista

Click here to buy the Kaweco Classic Sport