upgrade my fountain pen
Q&A

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.

Taroko Design
Stories

An Interview with Steven from Taroko Design

Taroko Design

I have just finished my A5 Taroko dot notebook when it hit me…I don’t know a lot about the brand or the makers… Quick nosy Google search took me to their Etsy and Facebook page, but that did not satisfy my curiosity. The notebooks are incredibly popular (A5 dot is currently sold out), so I have set myself a mission to explore the brand, notebooks and paper in a 3-part blog 🙂

So we thought we would get Steven to share something of his background and love of stationery. I had a great time chatting and geeking out with him. Enjoy!

Interview with Steven Chang from Taroko Design

Tell me a little about your background.  What was the impulse to start making your own notebooks? We’re a small studio based in Taipei, Taiwan, and our story really started with the purchase of my first fountain pen, a Pilot Kakuno, several years back. With the fountain pen in hand, I was surprised at the difficulty of finding the right paper/notebook products in the market to use the fountain pen with. One thing lead to another (trying lots of different paper+pen combinations) and we’ve managed to secure three types of fountain pen friendly paper to make products with: Tomoegawa 52 and 68 gms, and our own Taroko Orchid paper at 80gsm. The mission is really to provide more choices to fountain pen users where most paper products cater to the rollerball/gel pen usages.

What’s the story behind your studio? After my earlier career in tech (product manager for notebooks and mobile phones), I decided to pursuit an industrial design degree. While taking the degree program, classmate at the time is my current studio partner Wenwen Liu. We decided to group up and start the studio a few months before graduation to keep the learning process going, by taking on projects as a team. Our past projects included graphic and floor plan design for photography exhibitions, souvenirs for tourist centers, and product branding and packaging. The creation of notebooks under the Taroko brand gives us the freedom of implementing our ideas (versus having to adhere to client design guidelines), as well as choosing the type of material that goes into our notebooks.

How did you come up with the brand name? Taroko is named after Taroko Gorge in my hometown of Hualien. Most people would think of Taiwan as an industrialized island packed with 20 million people, but there are still natural wonders on the eastern portion of the island. We will be incorporating elements from Taroko National Park into our notebooks in the future. 🙂 Here are some references on Taroko Gorge/National Park: http://www.earthtrekkers.com/taroko-national-park/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taroko_National_Park

What would you be making if not notebooks? Leathercrafts. Love the experience of making things by hand that will age well with usage. An important lesson from design school days is to always make things with your hand, draw with pen and pencils, and suppress the urge to jump right into Photoshop or a 3D rendering program. So we are always cutting and binding paper during our prototyping stage.

What do you attribute the success and/or demand for stationery today to? The product has to deliver a kind of “experience” to the customer, from the weight of the notebook, suprisingly light to unexpected heft. The touch of the materials used, and the subtle feedback of the nib sliding across the paper. It is a difficult balance to hold between achieving that unique experience and manufacturing constraints in delivering products, but I believe that’s what most leading brands are striving to achieve.

What’s your favourite item of stationery in your personal collection? It’s a little folding hand knife I bought in Nishiki market in Tokyo, and I use it to sharpen pencils with. The knife is handcrafted by a Japanese artisan, and when I use it to sharpen pencils, it serves as a reminder of the trip, as well as liberate the aroma from the pencil wood.

And finally – what is your current paper+pen+ink combo? Tomoe River paper 68gsm (of course) with Pilot Justus 95 filled with Sailor Seasons Yama-dori (teal blue). The Pilot Justus 95, with its adjustable nib hardness, is perfect for when I need to write interchangeably between English and Chinese. And the Yama-dori gives a wonderful red sheen on Tomoe River paper.

Thanks to Steven for sparing his time to give this great interview. We wish you and Taroko Design best of luck.

Watch out for Part 2 of Taroko Trilogy – we’ll focus a bit more on their notebooks.

Part 3 will be all about Tomoe River paper. (Hint: it’s amazing!:) )

Taroko Design notebooks are available here.

twsbi eco fountain pen review
Review

TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen Review

twsbi eco fountain pen review

Introduction

This review covers something that I have coveted and finally given in to temptation on – finding a fountain pen that I love. My eye had finally been turned by the TWSBI Eco fountain pen. I had enviously eyed many a fountain pen passing through our website for some time but I knew the right pen would catch my eye. And so it did.

Style

What drew me to the TWSBI Eco pen was that is stood out as being a smart pen. A cut above. Available in clear, white or black trim I opted for the fully clear version. I wanted to see the ink in all its glory in the pen.

Although similar to the Lamy Vista fountain pen it just had a certain industrial-chic appeal to me and certainly had a stylish edge over the Vista. The pen has a solid feel, is a nice weight and looks simple and modern. It’s not a pen that shouts loudly for attention but that suited me. I wanted the ink to be the star of the pen. The Eco is also well packaged which adds to the appeal of what you are buying.

twsbi eco fountain pen

Score: 9/10

Features

The TWSBI Eco comes with some little gadgets that add to the sense of you buying something a bit special. Inside the box you will find a spanner and some silicon grease. To be honest both remain firmly in the box to this day and will likely always do so, but it never harms to have a spare gadget around and I may yet come to need them. Instructions for their use are included as well.

The big feature of the Eco pen is that it has an in-built piston for drawing ink into the reservoir, so no need for cartridges or converters. The barrel itself is an ink reservoir, which also means the ink can be viewed easily (and beautifully) without having to look into a converter or cartridge. There is also a good choice of nib widths from extra-fine to broad plus a 1.1mm nib.

twsbi eco fountain pen - box contents
The TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen comes with accessories!

Score: 9/10

Usability

The crucial part of the test, and the TWSBI Eco comes up trumps for me. It writes beautifully, a very smooth nib that has performed perfectly for me since I started using it. No skipping, not at all scratchy, just even and consistent. I’m no expert when it comes to fountain pens so this is a judgement based on my experience but this is one of nicest pens I have written with.

However…yes, there is always a catch. Nib choice is so crucial and after testing Mishka’s Eco pen I thought I had it right. Normally I would opt for a finer nib but her pen persuaded me on a medium nib. It’s not that I don’t like my medium nib, just that I think the fine nib would have been the better option.

That said, the ink plays a big part in how it feels to write with and having been mostly using KWZ ink, which is quite wet, it made for a very different feel to the nib width than other inks I tried. Currently I am using Blackstone ink and this does feel ‘finer’. Nib, ink and paper work together so it isn’t as simple as just the nib itself. But I would still prefer a finer nib!

TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen Review - how does it write?
The TWSBI Eco pen writes very well

Score: 9/10

Value for money

At £29.95 the TWSBI Eco feels like good value. Yes there are lots of pens for less, not least the similar Lamy Vista pen, but it just feels like a pen that I want to own and write with. I did mark it down a bit here as at that price you can find alternatives, and very good ones, for less. For me though it worth the extra.

Score: 8/10

Verdict

Overall I am very happy with my purchase. I use it everyday and enjoy using it, and that is all I can ask for from a pen – that I seek it out rather than use it reluctantly. Yes I have slight issues with the nib choice but even that isn’t so clear cut and I am happy with my medium nib.

It’s a great pen not least because it writes so smoothly, and with the reservoir on show you can enjoy your choice of ink that much more.

Style
Features
Usability
Value-for-money
News

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

TWSBI Eco Lime fountain pen
Review

Happy Halloween with TWSBI Eco Lime

TWSBI Eco Lime fountain pen

Hi folks,

TWSBI ECO Lime just arrived, Halloween is around the corner, so I thought this is the perfect time for a quick review.

TWSBI ECO is a fountain pen with piston filling mechanism which means that it fills from the bottle and it holds a ton (around 1.8-2ml) of ink. No need for cartridges or converters anymore…

ECO pen would classify as a demonstrator – this basically means that transparent pen body is one big ink window and you can see the ink sloshing around.

I have inked mine with Diamine Shimmering Lilac Satin – ink which will be available from early November 🙂 Purple and lime green go so well together. That said – turquoise, green, pink or orange would look great too 🙂 I do love matching inks and pens <3

OKay, let’s not get side-tracked 🙂 What else is great about this pen? It comes in a cool box – supplied with silicon grease and wrench for all pen tinkerers 🙂 It is really easy to find (colour does scream, lol). Design is simple – disassembling the pen, swapping nibs, pen maintenance and cleaning is a piece of cake (pull the feed& nib out). It is a reliable writer. Perfect everyday carry and workhorse pen. Great value for money and it has Halloween all over 🙂

TWSBI ECO Lime (and other colours) is available here: https://www.bureaudirect.co.uk/twsbi-eco-fountain-pen

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween,

Mishka (^_~)

ps: 22 Diamine inks are now available here: https://www.bureaudirect.co.uk/diamine-shimmer-inks

max the blogger
Stories

London Pen Show 2016 – The Next Generation

max the blogger

We Introduce Max

At the recent London Pen Show we were quite impressed by the range of people of all ages, which helped remind us that stationery isn’t a dying art. One particular person who came by our table early on was Max, who clearly had a love of pens and ink. The funny thing was that I thought he was being dragged round the show by his Mum but I think it turned out to be the complete opposite. Max knew his pens and ink and was already aware of the infamous KWZ honey ink before the show. After he’d left our table we talked about how we should have asked him to write a blog piece and what a shame we didn’t think of it sooner. Luckily for us he came back by our table an hour or so later and we floated the idea. So in return for a nice bottle of KWZ ink Max generously went away and wrote about why he loves pens and ink.

My name is Max, I am 13 years old and I enjoy writing with fountain pens. Despite this hobby of mine only being half a year old, it has become a key element of my life that has not only made me happy, but has also improved various aspects of school.

This year I start my GCSE courses (major exams that nearly every 15-16 year old takes in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) which are very important for what job I can get when I’m older so I have to study… a lot. I have been starting to create various revision materials for the smaller exams that I take at school with my fountain pens and inks! I have made systems that incorporate various ink colours and nib widths to make each topic different, and easy to identify. Since doing this, my life has completely changed.

I’ll give you an example: In my English exam in Spring, I got a Grade 6 (equivalent to a B) and at that point I didn’t use fountain pens. But then sometime in the Spring break, I joined the hobby, improved my handwriting and bought a TWSBI Eco and in the same exam I got a Grade 8 (The second highest, equivalent to a A*ish). Note that I am not very good at English, but you can clearly see the benefits of using fountain pens. I believe that using fountain pens, and caring about what you write and how you write it, helps me retain the information for longer which could be the reason for this improvement. Facts like this just show that fountain pens are awesome.

In the past 10 years, the world of technology has become extremely accessible to younger and younger people and nowadays, everybody has a phone. Nobody cares about writing anymore and nobody cares whether they are enjoying writing or not. Writing has become a chore. Some people in my class at school do use fountain pens – mainly Lamy Safaris – however none of them seem to care about how it writes or what pleasure they will get from it, rather they buy it so that they don’t have to throw it out, or that it’s cheaper than buying a new ballpoint all the time. I am the only person who doesn’t think that writing is chore.

That’s it, nowadays everyone hates writing, but for me, it’s my hobby. I have begun to write letters to people, just because I want to use my pens, or I have written long pages of just words, because on every stroke I am enjoying myself. Writing letters is generally something nobody does anymore, it’s inconvenient and I can completely agree with that, but there is just something about sitting down and writing a letter which makes writing letters, so much fun. I’m not saying that texting is bad. It’s great, because now we can text someone saying “Can you close the window, it’s raining” and they will get it instantly, and close the window. With letters, you obviously cannot do that, but letters have a time and place.

Writing has become an integral part of my life and something that because I school, I just can’t give up. Not that I would want to give it up anyway.

There you go!

I reckon KWZ ink sounds good. I’m loving the Honey and Green Gold I got at the Pen show. I’ve already gone through a full Lamy 2000 fill with the Honey!

Max

ps: Max asked for a shoutout to Mr Quinlan at his school who is his latin teacher and also appreciates pens. How can we not acknowledge a fellow pen lover?