Sunday, July 31, 2022

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 409

Earlier this month, I attended an outdoor gathering arranged by the Canadian Fountain Pen Enthusiasts (CFPE), a very active group of pen lovers (currently numbering over 1.7K members) on Facebook. I'd heard that one of their members was going to be selling some pens there, so I took some cash with me (and some buffalo chicken bites to share) and headed out. 

I was happy to see several of my fellow Vancouver Pen Club members at the picnic, and I had a great time catching up with them and meeting the other nice pen folks from the CFPE. Many thanks to Sharon T. of the CFPE for organizing the picnic and reserving the site for the gathering. While I was there, I bought a lovely fountain pen from CFPE member Jayne ... and here it is!

(please click on images to enlarge)

Meet my new Lamy 'Al-Star' in "Vibrant Pink"!

T
he colour is really hard to capture, but trust me, it's more fuchsia than the purple shade I see on my monitor (late note: there's a better shot of it here in a newer review I did). The "Vibrant Pink" was the 2018 Special Edition of the Lamy 'Al-Star' and it's a very cheery colour - a lovely shade of pink that's as vibrant as its name, but not loud or obnoxious. I love it!

The pen was in new, unused condition, but Jayne was kind enough to include a Lamy converter with the pen (which came with a Lamy blue ink cartridge). The nib on it is a Lamy 1.1 mm italic stainless steel nib that writes smoothly (as expected :)

Now, here are some comparison shots I promised at the very end of the last blog post--my new Lamy 'Al-Star' with my Lamy 'Lx'"Marron":
As I mentioned in that post, the 'Al-star' clips are all chrome, while the 'Lx' models have metal clips that match the pen bodies. My 'Lx' "Marron" is sporting a bronze-coloured clip that's PVD coated with bronze.


I also mentioned the differences in the Lamy logo at the end of the barrels; the 'Al-Star' has a simple engraved Lamy logo, whereas the 'Lx' has a shiny, raised logo that's double-anodized.

The black ABS plastic cap top finial on the 'Al-Star' and the shiny metal finial on the 'Lx'...

Both pens have barrel end finials with "Germany" stamped on them, but the 'Al-Star's is made of black ABS plastic, whereas the 'Lx''s is made of the same metal as its cap top finial and clip.

(Top: Lamy 'Al-star' section; Bottom: Lamy 'Lx' section)

When I posted the review of my 'Lamy Lx' on Thursday, I said that I thought its section was a darker translucent grey than the 'Al-Star's. I looked at both sections today in bright sunlight, and I now think they're exactly the same, so I edited yesterday's blog post.

I am very happy with my new Lamy 'Al-star' fountain pen in the gorgeous "Vibrant Pink" colour (I'm more of a Lamy 'Safari' collector, but I couldn't resist buying it :) Many thanks to Jayne for the pen! (I also bought some ink from Jayne, but I'll review it another day -- Update: here's that ink review, posted on August 3rd --link )

(photos & review by Maja)

We'll be featuring a handsome vintage fountain pen on Monday, courtesy of Christopher. Have a safe BC Day long weekend (Civic Holiday)!
~Maja

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 408

Like a lot of my fellow pen club members, I've been buying more pens online since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Many of those pens were purchases from Canadian pen sellers. In fact, I jokingly said to a pen friend that I should make at least one purchase from every online pen store in Canada while the pandemic was still on.

To that end, I browsed through Laywine's webstore and found a fountain pen I've wanted for quite a while, but never got around to buying. Shipping was free over $75 CAD and better yet, I discovered I could pay for it with Sezzle in four equal, interest-free payments --one payment every 2 weeks-- with my credit card. I'd used Sezzle to pay for some items from Fendrihan.ca and never had a problem with it, so I was pleased to see that Laywine's also accepted Sezzle.

Long story short--I bought a Lamy 'Lx' "Marron" special edition fountain pen!

(please click on images to enlarge)

(Luxury packaging!)

I first saw the pen at a pen club meeting back in February 2020, when new VPC member Gary brought it for us to see (thank you, Gary!) A
s soon as I saw it at our meeting, I put in on my mental Pen Wish List. It kept getting put on the back burner, though, as I was focusing on buying Lamy 'Safari' special editions before they sold out. Anyway, I finally got one, and I'm so glad I did.

...and here it is! The pen arrived, safe and sound, from Toronto and came with the nice note above.

This isn't my first Lamy 'Lx'--I have one in "Rose Gold" that I bought in 2016, the year after the 'Lx' line was first released. The "Marron" version is an 'Lx' Special Edition and it came along a few years later -- in 2019, to be exact.

The Lamy 'Lx' has been called an "upgraded" Lamy 'Al-Star' that comes in "iPhone colours" (which sounds like a bit of a dig, but it shouldn't be). Yes, the model name is pronounced "luxe" (as in "deluxe"), but --price differences aside-- how do the two Lamy models actually differ...and is the 'Lx' model worth the extra money?

According to Lamy.com, the 'Lx' body is made of "Aluminium, anodised, with precious metal colour" (GouletPens.com says it's made of "double-anodized aluminum"), while the same Lamy site describes the 'Al-star' as being made of "high quality" aluminum. Are the pens really made of two different types of materials?? If anyone knows, please let me know. The 'Lx' material looks and feels a bit nicer, but it could just be my imagination (or subconscious, because I know the 'Lx' is more expensive, lol).

One obvious difference is that the 'Lx' fountain pens have shiny metal finials on the top of their caps (photo above) and the bottom of their barrels
(vs. the ABS plastic finials on the 'Al-Star), as well as matching shiny metal clips (vs. the chrome clips on the 'Al-Star'). The trim on the 'Lx' always matches the colour of the pen body, but that's rarely the case with the 'Al-star' models.

I didn't take a closeup of it, but the Lamy logo on the 'Lx' barrels is also different (and nicer)--it's glossy and slightly raised, whereas the 'Al-Star' has a plain, stamped/engraved Lamy logo. I just finished watching a video on the 'Lx' by Goulet Pens and Brian Goulet said that the Lamy logo on the 'Lx' was double-anodized, adding that it was a "pioneering and innovative technique that Lamy (was) trying". Cool!

The 'Lx' and 'Al-Star' models both come with steel monotone nibs (the Z 52 and Z50 nibs, respectively) and their nibs are completely interchangeable. The nib on the 'Lx', however, has a glossy black PVD coating on it, is laser engraved with the nib width & Lamy name, and has an elegant engraved border around its nib slit and breather hole. The PVD coating makes the Z 52 nib more durable, glossier and a darker shade of black compared to the black versions of the Z50 nibs that come with some Lamy 'Al-star'/Safari'/'Vista' pens and which aren't PVD coated.

I ordered an 'Lx' with a Medium (Z 52) nib, and it writes the same as my Medium Z 50 nibs. The 'Lx's nib is more stiff, though, but this is just an observation -- I don't put any extra pressure on either type of nib because they're not flex nibs.

Happily, these beautiful 'Lx' Z 52 nibs are available for purchase separately in four nib widths (EF, F, M and B)! They fit a lot of different Lamy fountain pens, so I got one for my Lamy 'Accent' from Stylo.ca in Montreal for $30 CAD + shipping. That's not cheap for a steel nib, but the plainer Z 50 nibs cost $22-$25 each from the same seller; for only a few dollars more, you can get a Z 52 nib that gives your pen a decidedly more upscale look.

Another difference -- the Lamy 'Lx' comes with that posh packaging you saw at the start of this post! Instead of Lamy's cardboard packaging (which is admittedly much better for the environment) for its 'Al-Star'/'Safari'/'Vista' models, you get an anodized aluminum tube in a colour that matches your 'Lx' pen....

...and the tube is lined with a black rubbery material that gently holds your pen in place and protects it from damage.

The tube makes for nice gift packaging ... or you can also use it as a pen holder for your desk...

Above: my other Lamy 'Lx' --the Rose Gold fountain pen-- with my Marron.

Note that the trim on these two 'Lx' models isn't the same; when they introduced the "Marron", Lamy said (in their YouTube video description) that it had a "bronze colour metal clip and details PVD coated with bronze".

In addition to these two colours, the Lamy 'Lx' also comes in Gold, Palladium, and Ruthenium, and is available in fountain pen, ballpoint and rollerball forms. Lamy hasn't added to the 'Lx' lineup since the "Marron' was released in 2019, so if you want to collect the whole set, you only have to buy five different models :)

So, do I think the 'Lx' fountain pen is worth the extra money? I'd say "Yes!" for three reasons: the lovely, shiny metal finials (and matching clip), the beautiful nib design that's unique to the 'Lx', and because the pen's trim matches the body of the pen (g
iving it an aesthetically-appealing uniformity of appearance). All of these features add a touch of luxury to what is already a well-made, smooth-writing, reliable fountain pen. Many thanks to Laywine's for this beautiful pen!

(photos & review by Maja)

P.S. I recently got a new Lamy 'Al-star' so I'll be posting a review of it here on Saturday (July 30) and I'll include some comparison shots of the 'Al-Star' and the Lamy 'Lx'.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 407

Double-shot show & tell!
 
Earlier this month, I reviewed a pretty, multi-coloured Jinhao '100 Centennial'
fountain pen and mentioned how I owned three others of the same model. I'd reviewed two out of the three already, so here's my review of the third one - my red Jinhao '100 Centennial' fountain pen:

(please click on photos to enlarge)


I bought it earlier this year for the equivalent of $33 CAD (including shipping) from eBay seller 'pens-world'. Since I did an in-depth review of my orange/black version here (and also here
, a few months earlier -- I just realized today that I did two reviews of the same pen... LOL!), I won't go over the features of this model again, but I will point out some minor differences between the red version and the other two....

All of my other Jinhao '100 Centennial' fountain pens have gold-coloured trim, so I was looking for a model with silver-coloured trim....and I liked the looks of this one. The pen came with the same finial as my other '100 Centennial' models, but it was silver-coloured, to match the pen's trim and nib colour.

If you don't like silver-coloured trim, the red model also comes with gold-coloured trim and an arrow-shaped clip. It's worth mentioning that both the arrow clip pens and the ball-ended clip versions are considered the same model (the Jinhao '100 Centennial'), even though their clips are different. There is a Jinhao '100A' model, but its cap band is completely different. 

Now, if you're familiar with classic vintage fountain pens, I think you can see what classic fountain pen inspired the pen's body colour -- yes, the iconic vintage Parker 'Duofold' "Big Red"!

Above: The imprint on the Jinhao is also clearly an homage to the imprint on the vintage Parker 'Duofold'  (one Redditor filled in the imprint on his/her own pen here, so it's easier to read --click twice on that photo to see an extreme closeup).

There's a photo of a 'Duofold Jr' (the smaller version of the 'Duofold') imprint here
... and I think you can see the similarities to the Jinhao imprint. The 'Duofold's imprint has the words "Lucky Curve" within its banner, whereas the Jinhao's imprint says "Jinhao Pen" within its own banner. The Parker model name is above its banner, while the Jinhao model name ("Century") is above its banner. To the left of the Parker banner, it says "GEO. S. PARKER, JANESVILLE, WIS.", while to left of the Jinhao banner, it says
"Q.G. STATIONERY" (I suspect this refers to the manufacturer's name--Shanghai Qiangu Stationery Co. Ltd.). To the right of the Parker banner, it says "FOUNTAIN PEN  U.S.A.  PAT. 4-25-11", while Jinhao's imprint just says "FOUNTAIN PEN" in the same spot.

Even though the Jinhao's imprint is a blatant rip-off of imitation of the 'Duofold' imprint, it's the main reason I bought this red model--as far as I know, the red versions are the only ones that have this cool imprint on them.

Onto the second review in this blog post now!

Earlier this month, I heard about a smaller version of the Jinhao '100 Centennial' called the Jinhao '100 Centennial Mini", so I looked online to see what colours were available. At that time, I could only find two--an all-black one (black resin cap and black wood barrel), and another with a black resin cap and a barrel made of a stripey, lighter-coloured wood (described by the seller as "Tiger texture wood"). I purchased the latter from 'esybuy' --an excellent eBay seller-- for the equivalent of $30 CAD including shipping:

It has a beautifully-rendered arrow clip, but it's not the same style as the arrow clip on my full-sized all-orange pen (which I reviewed here).

Like its full-sized cousins, the 'Mini' version also has a screw-on cap topped with the same metal medallion --Jinhao's chariot logo-- but the Mini's medallion is smaller in size and gold in colour. Like the full-sized pens, the 'Mini' is also postable. The posted length of the 'Mini' is 16.5 cm and its capped length is 13.2 cm. The "Mini' measures 12.1 cm from nib tip to barrel end.
This particular "Mini' weighs 23 grams empty, with its cap weighing 9.1 grams, which makes it a little bit back-heavy when posted. Like the full-sized version, it's a cartridge/converter and came with a converter in place.

The wood they chose for the barrel is nice, but it looks reddish-orange in online photos...which was how I hoped it would look in real life 😞. After I got the pen, I noticed that different sellers were using the same photos of this model in their listings, so I wonder if they were stock photos provided by Jinhao. If so, it wouldn't be the first time a pen company did that--Pelikan did it with some pre-release photos of a few of their models (to much consternation from some buyers of those pens). That's not nearly as misleading to potential buyers as the all-black Jinhao 'Mini' being described by sellers as a "resin" pen, when its barrel is actually made of black stained wood. Yikes.

There are a couple of Jinhoo models made of "Tiger Stripe Sandalwood" (the '51A' model with a wood body + metal cap, and the all-wood torpedo-shaped model) and I wonder if my 'Mini' in "Tiger" wood  is made of that same wood...
 

Anyway, onto the comparison shots...

By my measurements, the 'Mini' is about 0.6 cm shorter (not a big difference) than its full-sized relative when capped...

...and it's about 0.8 cm shorter when posted (again--not a big difference)....


...and uncapped, the 'Mini' is approximately 0.5 cm shorter.

These aren't significant length differences, so why is the smaller pen called the 'Mini'??


Answer: Their nib sizes (the 'Mini' has a #5 two-tone steel nib, whereas the full-sized one has a much larger #6 monotone steel nib)....

...and their diameters. The 'Mini' has a maximum barrel diameter of about 11.5 mm whereas the full-sized version's is 13 mm. Maximum section diameters are 9.5 mm for the 'Mini' and 11 mm for the full-sized version (all my measurements).

One online reviewer noted that the two pen's capped lengths differ by 4% ---which isn't much of a difference--- but the barrel and section diameters differ by 13% and 16% respectively, by my calculations. Because of this, the full-sized pen feels considerably girthier.

Summary:
If you have larger hands, I'd strongly suggest the full-sized version, but if you want a slimmer fountain pen, give the 'Mini' a try.
Both pen's nibs write smoothly but you might prefer the aesthetics of the larger #6 nib on the full-sized model.  

The 'Mini' is now available in more colours, and I suspect Jinhao will keep adding to the 'Mini' lineup. I don't know if it will be as big a seller as the full-sized '100 Centennial' though---the bigger version only costs a couple of dollars more, and is a much more comfortable pen to use posted or unposted (well, for my hand anyway). The 'Mini' is a nice addition to my collection, though, as I don't own too many fountain pens made of wood, and it does look rather cute ;).

(photos & review by Maja)

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 406

A little background to my new acquisition:
Last year, Stuart bought a lovely Cross 'Apogee' fountain pen (that he reviewed here) on closeout from the Vancouver Pen Shop. I'd seen the 'Apogee' when it came out 17 years ago, but I really didn't care for the design so I didn't rush out and buy one merely because it was on clearance (great restraint on my part - ha!). Fast forward to a recent discussion Stuart and I had about nib sizes, in which Stuart mentioned that his Cross 'Apogee' had a very small nib. I looked up some photos of the 'Apogee' online....and found that I really liked its design now! It's like that with some songs---you're not sure if you like them the first time you hear them (because they sound different/odd/unique) ...but later on, they become some of your favourites.

Anyway, after I saw photos of the pen, I went looking to buy one online ... only to discover that they aren't cheap (even the second-hand ones)! Oh man, I should have listened to Stuart and bought one at the Van Pen Shop last year
😑😑... While browsing on eBay, I found a used pen that the seller described as a "Cross Fountain Pen as in the photo" (ie. no specific model name), adding "No ink included" (which was fine with me) and the more ominous-sounding line "I think the nib will need a good cleaning" (I was really worried about it being gummed up with India Ink).  The lone photo provided by the seller didn't show the front of the pen or the the front of the nib, so I wasn't sure what condition it was in (or if it even had a Cross nib on it)...

Here's that eBay photo:


(photo above taken directly from the eBay auction)

I immediately recognized it as a Cross 'Apogee' based on the length of its clip and its wide cap band, so I put in a single bid... and subsequently won it for $66.72 CAD, including shipping!

And here's what arrived:

(~please click on images to enlarge~)

The pen was in great shape, and the nib just had some old ink on it that wiped off very easily. It was second-hand and didn't come with a Cross presentation box, but that's ok--I have enough of those!
🙄

I hadn't really done extensive research on the eBay 'Apogee' model prior to bidding on it, so I just assumed that it had an 18K gold nib like Stuart's 'Apogee' (even though its trim was different). Well, it turns out that the pen I won is actually a Cross 'Apogee Medalist' model with a steel nib. The good news is that it was a Special Edition that was available for a limited time only! Oh, and the term 'Medalist' refers to Cross writing instruments with polished chrome and 23K gold-plated appointments (trim). The original 'Apogee' pens (like Stuart's) came out in late 2005, but I'm not sure when the 'Apogee Medalist' special editions were first released.


Fun fact: the Cross 'Apogee Medalist' fountain pen was one of the gifts in the luxury gift bags given out to nominees in the 2016 BAFA awards, Britain's equivalent of the Academy Awards.


According to Penhero.com, "Mark Knight, the Apogee designer, intended the new line to be a "unique combination of old and new elements"...

 It's a beautiful polished chrome fountain pen with bright 23K gold plated trim and a wonderful barley engraving on the pen's body that reminds me of Wahl's all-metal machine-engraved pencils from the 1920s. The shape of the barrel is a bit unusual in that it tapers quite a bit towards the end; the cap also tapers, but not nearly to the same degree. The barrel's steep taper allows the pen to post very deeply, which is great if you prefer using the pen posted.


The pen is 14 cm (5.5 inches) long capped, 12.7 cm (5 inches) from nib tip to barrel end, and 14.2 cm (5.6 inches) posted.
The pen weighs 39.9 grams empty (17.5 g cap weight + 22.4 g barrel wt.), which is a bit heavier than my Cross 'Townsend' Lustrous Chrome fountain pen (37.2 grams). The 'Apogee' is fairly well-balanced when posted, but a teeny bit back-heavy. I use the pen both posted and unposted, depending on my mood, but I do tend to hold pens a bit higher up the barrel.

My pen was second-hand and it didn't come with a converter, but it takes Cross' proprietary cartridges, an old-style screw-in Cross converter (the orange one) or Cross' newly-designed push-in (clear) converter.



The original chrome 'Apogee' (ie. the one with the 18K nib) has the same engraving pattern as my 'Apogee Medalist'. The engraving was done on the Cross Engelsberger engraving machine, according to Penhero.com


The engraving is so finely done that you might not even notice it if you ran your fingers along the cap and barrel! I am very impressed with the craftsmanship...


The pen's distinctive wide cap band is engraved with the Cross name and " ~ EST. 1846 ~ "
(and that's not tarnish on the cap band, just a reflection)

The long, spring-activated clip (with the Cross name tastefully engraved on it) is probably the first design feature most people notice about the 'Apogee'. I love the elegant shape of the clip and how its (very cool) pointed end lies nearly flush with the cap. The clip works well, but it requires the user to push down on the top of the clip to engage it. This doesn't bother me because I'm used to doing that with Conklin's rocker clips, so I don't find it inconvenient. Some users, though, might prefer a clip that just requires a one-handed operation.

The cap is friction-fit and caps very tightly, so it does take some effort to uncap it (on the plus side, it's not likely to fall off!). It caps with a reassuring click, and I've had no nib-drying-out problems with the pen so far. The outer cap lip is designed so that when the pen is capped, the drop-off from cap to barrel is very smooth. The inner part of the cap lip is very smooth too, with no rough edges that I can detect. Both of these features show careful attention to detail -- well done, Cross! Neither the cap finial nor the barrel end have any adornments, but I don't think that's necessary with such an ornate pen body.

The section is made of metal with a glossy, black lacquer finish and is tapered, but I don't find my fingers slipping on it. It has a maximum diameter of about 12 mm, which is a very comfortable size for my grip. Another thing that makes it so comfortable to hold is the lack of a step-down from barrel to section (you can't see it in the photo directly above, but you can in the photo above it)-- another nice design feature.

The gold-coloured stainless steel nib is nicely engraved with a plume-like design, and the nib width ("M" in this case) is engraved on its side. My lone complaint about the pen is the same one that Stuart had---the size of the nib. Why Cross didn't put a larger nib on such a pretty pen is beyond me... It's even more annoying because my pen's Medium nib is a very smooth, wet writer with no flow issues. I have no complaints about the way it writes--it just glides across paper (rough paper or smooth paper) like butter on a hot griddle.


 
Above: Here's something I discovered during my research for this blog post -- the pen's date of manufacture is marked on the section! Mine has a production date of "0714", which translates to July 2014 (Happy 8th birthday to my pen! 😊)



(Another shot of the cap, but in brighter light...)

The Cross 'Apogee' is a very well-made, fountain pen with a unique design, a lovely engraved body, and a wonderful steel nib. I'm so glad I took a chance on this pen, based on a really vague auction description + a not-so-great photo. I think I got a great deal -- a new one would cost about $250 CAD from an online retailer (the ballpoints are ~$155 CAD and the rollerballs ~$205 on Amazon) and I paid one-quarter of that for my gently-used one. May you be as lucky with your own eBay bidding as I was with mine!



Ok, one last photo...This is not a real Cross 'Apogee' model---I was just playing around with some photo editing, to see what the pen would look like with rose gold trim (and I like it!)

~ Photos (except where noted) & review by Maja ~ 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 405

If you've been following our little online "show & tell", I'm sure you've noticed Stuart steadily amassing a really nice collection of vintage desk sets. Here's another fine example he acquired a few weeks ago:

(photos courtesy of Stuart ~ please click on images to enlarge)

Stuart: "Another set arrived last Tuesday! It’s a Sheaffer, the first I’ve acquired in a few months, believe it or not. :)"

It has a lovely, Pedrara onyx base, and is fitted with a lever-filling Lifetime desk pen in brown with a matching socket, and a perpetual calendar that shows the month and the date. You select the correct date card each month to match up with the current month. It has a wooden back that slides onto the frame, and a glass pane in front. It swivels around to wherever you want it. As it fits in a socket-hole that’s the same as used for the pens, you can swap the calendar and pen around if you’re left-handed! And Sheaffer could use the same base for a two-pen set, very clever."


"It’s in the 1938 Sheaffer catalog that the parkersheaffer.com site has. It sold for $15 with the Lifetime pen, and the calendar could be bought separately for $3.50. Mine has the label, which indicates what other pens could be had with the base, and the prices for those versions."

"The pen needs a sac, no surprise, and some nib tuning - when I dip it, I can’t get anything out of it. The feed is not centered under the tines, so that’s probably the problem. Otherwise, the set is in excellent condition, and I’m very happy with it! As you can see, the calendar is very elegant, and the patina the gold-finished frame has acquired over the years adds to its charm.

So another great addition to the hoard!"

Our thanks, as always, to Stuart for sharing his new purchases with us :)
Fellow VPC members: Please keep those photos and reviews coming, and many thanks to everyone who has contributed to our virtual "show & tell" already!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 404

If you went to school in North America or Europe, chances are you've come across a Staedtler Mars plastic eraser (the white ones that worked well and didn't leave "eraser dust" behind) and/or Staedtler's wood pencils (the blue & black 'Lumograph' and/or the yellow & black 'Noris' pencils which are very popular in the UK).

The company behind these products was founded in Nuremburg, Germany in 1835 and in the years since then, Staedtler has grown into a stationery manufacturing powerhouse with over 2,300 employees and nine manufacturing facilities worldwide. In addition to writing instruments, the company also makes technical drawing products, art materials and accessories such as erasers and pencil sharpeners. Staedtler's products are known for their overall high quality, and these ballpoints below are no exception.

Meet my Staedtler 'Triplus 444' ballpoint & Staedtler 'Initium' "Lignum" ballpoint in plum wood :


(please click on images to enlarge)

In September 2013, the local Staedtler rep (Valerie) dropped by one of our pen club meetings, back when they were held at Perks pen store. She had some information about Staedtler's new line of fine writing instruments (which included fountain pens, something they hadn't produced in a while) and brought a couple of examples in ballpoint form---one made of plum wood and another made of glossy black resin--to show us.

Well, I never forgot about that gorgeous plum wood ballpoint, so last May, I finally bought one for myself!
I paid $60 USD + $18 USD shipping and import fees (about $97 CAD total, at the time) for mine via Amazon.com. They were never cheap to begin with (I think that's why I held off on buying one), and they were getting more difficult to find for a reasonable price, so I jumped at the chance to get one for less than $100 CAD shipped.

The barrel is crafted from stained plum wood and uses a twist-action mechanism, accepting Staedtler's ("Parker-style") refills. According to my measurements, the pen measures 12.4 cm in length, has a 12.5mm barrel diameter and weighs 28.8 grams empty. I should note that the plum wood was originally a little lighter when I got the pen, but I applied a thin layer of olive oil (I should have used a lighter oil) to it and it darkened the wood a bit. The lighting in these photos is a bit subdued --the pen looks lighter in direct sunlight.

Staedtler's 'Initium' line was made in Germany and consists of writing instruments made from a wide variety of  materials, which are reflected in the model names--"Lignum" (made of wood), "Resina" (resin), "Metallum" (metal) and "Corium" (leather). All of the models were available in ballpoint, fountain pen, rollerball and mechanical pencil forms.

 

I have a Staedtler '760' triangular mechanical pencil that's really comfortable to hold, so when I saw the triangular 'Triplus 444' ballpoint in a local art supply store (Sublime), I thought it'd be equally comfortable to use (turns out I was right!). I paid $19.99 + tax for my "Radiant Rose" example.

Side note: I didn't know there was a Staedtler 'Triplus' fountain pen until I started writing this review, but apparently, it won a 2021 Red Dot design award. Aside from the 'Triplus', the 'Initium', the 'TRX', the 'Calligraphy' and
the '470', I can't find any other Staedtler fountain pens made in the modern era (aside from a few ultra-expensive LEs). It looks like the company is focusing more on non-fountain pen writing instruments (and there's nothing wrong with that)...


(I think this photo shows its true colour -- it's more of a dusty rose-- a bit better)

The 'Triplus 444' ballpoint has an all-metal triangular body, uses a push button mechanism, and also takes Staedtler's ("Parker-style") refills. I tried a Parker refill in it and it fits perfectly, but sometimes you need to double-click the pen to retract the mechanism. According to my measurements, it's about 14.8 cm long, has a barrel diameter of 12.5mm (same as my 'Initium'  plum wood ballpoint) and weighs 24.2 grams with no refill inside.

The 'Triplus 444' ballpoint is currently available in four matte colors - "Antique Anthracite", "Glorious Gold", "Roaring Red" and "Radiant Rose". The packaging (a simple hang-card) indicates that the pen was made in China.

Above: The Staedtler Mars logo debossed on top of the pens' clicker buttons

This logo depicts the helmeted head of Mars, the Roman god of war. Since 1908, when they introduced their Mars lines of pencils, Staedtler has used various iterations of this logo on their products (Staedtler Mars logos over the decades
). This newest logo was introduced in 2001.

The 'Triplus' has a glossy, smooth metal clip, whereas the 'Initium' Lignum's is matte, textured and chrome-plated. Both clips have three shallow rectangular indentations, which suit the clean, modern designs of the pens.


 The Staedtler name is tastefully engraved on the back of each pen...



...and if you look closely, you can see "Made in Germany" engraved on the plum wood 'Initium' (at the top of the grip area) in the photo above. The 'Triplus 444' isn't marked with its country of manufacture, as far as I can see.

I find the 'Triplus' more comfortable to hold because it has an ergometric grip (I naturally use a three-finger grip) and its surface is slightly textured. The 'Initium's metal grip area is smoother than the Triplus', so it's a bit slicker, but if I used a four-finger grip (as some people do), I'd probably find the 'Initium' easier to hold. Because I'm a high-gripper, I hold the 'Initium' at the top of its grip section. I find both pens to be well-balanced and not overly heavy even though they're not what I consider"light" pens.

Both are great ballpoints that are well-made, write smoothly and feel good in the hand. The plum wood 'Initium' shows more craftsmanship, feels more substantial in the hand and looks much nicer...and that's (naturally) reflected in its price. It's such a beautiful ballpoint, but I wish it were a little less expensive; I'd love to get another 'Initium' in a different material. We'll see... If I do get one, I won't wait another eight years :)

(~photos and review by Maja)