Monday, 31 August 2020

SEND IN THE CLONES! The Moonman F9 makes a landing on Mount White.

In September 2017 on this Blog, I said I had been Peking into a few of the recent Chinese fountain pen offerings and suggested I was finding Mao and Mao to like! 

Enter 2020 and the Chinese are really showing that they're not "cloning" about, with the release of the Moonman F9.

OK; enough puns I hear you say, so let's go straight to a quick overview of the Moonman F9 that arrived in my post box today. This is not one of my full reviews, as the pen is just new, but just a few short observations and a little musing.

Back in 2016, Montblanc introduced a new pen in commemoration of 110 years since the release of the original Montblanc Rouge et Noir in 1906. The pen was a departure from the usual Montblanc offering; and had a few tongues dangling with excitment. (My Blog review of the pen is here: Rouge et Noir review  ). 

In more recent times, Montblanc released a variation on the "new" Rouge et Noir which they called the Spider Metamorphosis. The new version was the same pen but swapped the Snake for a spider garnish on the cap, clip and nib.

These were lovely looking pens (if you're into snakes and spiders at least). The Snake gave Montblanc lovers a chance to drink again the Agatha Christie Writers Edition - Light.  It had the curly snake clip with, in the coral edition, gems in the eyes of the snake and a two tone nib featuring a snake's head. The black version had a single tone rhodium coated nib. It was a weighty pen (inspite of its narrow girth) and became an instant classic. The Spider version (the web edition?) had an almost deco design to the spider clip; and was similarly well received. The pen was also, for Montblanc, relatively affordable (around US$650) on release, and is available on-line currently for prices varying from $665 to $1168 on my best searches.

Now enter Moonman, a Chinese brand that has been gaining recognition more and more of late. Let's not mince words, the F9 is a very clear clone of the 2016 Montblanc Rouge et Noir; and it can be obtained in the black or coral and with the snake or spider design. But at US$23.90 (including postage and before local taxes) it's clearly not like-for-like and my expectations are low. 

I chose the black, as I already have an original in coral, forked out my money and waited to see what happened.

When the F9 arrived I was surprised. 

Firstly it was quick (in a Covid-19, lock-down climate that is no mean feat!)

Secondly, the packaging eclipsed Montblanc's original packaging by a long way: black slip-on sleeve over a wooden box subtly branded Moonman, inside of which a clever slip of paper reveals cap and snake only before being removed to reveal the whole pen snuggly nuzzled in its niche. Impressive.

             

To the pen. Well it looks like it's meant to. Good start. Surprisingly, it doesn't feel as "cheap" as I expected. Indeed, it doesn't feel cheap at all. There is a good weight to the pen; not as weighty as the original, but not much lighter. The Finial doesn't boast the custard pudding of the original (then it really would be a copy wouldn't it?) but a stylised exclamation mark (or at least that's what it looks like to me).

Exclamation mark inverted here!                                     

It's a piston filler (or at least I can't see if it's a captured converter - which I heavily suspect). And once I ink it, it drawers in the ink well and writes extremely adequately. 

There are a few subltle differences from the original:

  • It's longer: 14cm capped (the orignal is 13.5cm); uncapped 12.8cm (about the same as the original)
  • The piston ring is mildly broader
  • the section is a glossier metal finish (may be a touch more slippery than the original?)
  • The snake head is a bit larger than the original
  • The custard pudding top has a touch less self-raising flour - and didn't rise quite as much as the original.

but for all intents and purposes, this is essentially the same pen.

So here comes the philosophical quandry (and the issue leading to lots of angst amongst my IG brethren): 

Should the pen community support the production and selling of a pen that is clearly a copy of another?

Yes.

As good a copy as the F9 is of the Montblanc Rouge et Noir, it is not the Montblanc Rouge et Noir; and it doesn't claim to be. The materials, the branding and the price are all clear indicators of differences. I own cheap copies of expensive watches and I enjoy them. I know they are not IWC or Rolex; but they work, they emulate a great design, I can afford them, and I'm happy. This is all the F9 is: a fountain pen that takes it cues (heavily) from Montblanc; but isn't. 

Now let the debate continue (while I write it down with my F9)


Sunday, 2 August 2020

Good King Leonardo - erupts with a winner!

GOOD KING LEONARDO ISN'T JUST LION AROUND!

Leonardo are the fountain pen manufacturing Phoenix that has emerged from the ashes of OMAS and Delta to produce extraordinary quality fountain pens that just keep getting better and better. 

How fitting then, that Leonardo should offer two new fountain pens based on the Italian Volcanos Stromboli and Vesuvius!
Stromboli erupts!

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
A limited production to begin with, the Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Stromboli has made its way to me thanks to Novelli Pens (no affiliation), and, echoing the sentiments of all who have seen this pen, I provide this warning: 

Opening the box may seriously lead the new owner to suffer inexhaustible paroxysms of joy!


 10/10

APPEARANCE AND DESIGN


While there are some other interesting tweaks to this pen that separate it out from other Leonardo Momento Zero offerings, the explosive core of this pen IS its appearance.

Thanks to the genius of Jonathan Brooks of Carolina Pen Company the material on this pen (that he calls "Primary Manipulation") makes it both unique and superb.

No two pens are alike - giving you a sense of both artisan-made and exclusivity. And if you like colour... welcome to a cornucopia of shade, hues, tints, tinges, swirls, dabs, splatters and heaven!

The two offerings provide either a more greenish theme (the Stromboli: which I have) and a more red theme (the Vesuvio: seen below in a photo from the Novelli website):




I can't get enough of the variations and colours in my Stromboli. The cap has a more greenish theme, the section swirls with white, and the body runs with evocative clouds of lavender blues and pastels. While together this may seem to suggest a mish-mash of colours in sections that tear apart the uniformity of the design; this is not the case - all together this just works!

The white rhodium trim and nib work in beautifully with the resin, breaking it just enough to add interest.

Only one warning: if you order this pen because you want a particular pattern or colour combination, then this may not be the pen for you. You get what you get. Each pen, as I have said, is unique, and the colours land where they may. To me, this is another aspect that makes this pen highly desirable.


10/10

WEIGHT AND DIMENSIONS 
The Stromboli is not a heavy pen (35.3g); which is particularly pleasing because this is the larger of the Momento Zeros, the "Grande", and it's also a genuine piston filler which can often add weight to the equation. No. This pen has a comfortable weight that sits easily in the hand and can write away forever without feeling tiring.




Length wise, the Stromboli measures 15cm closed, 17cm posted and 13.5cm unposted. A good size.

At this size, the Stromboli is a comfortable write either posted or unposted, and doesn't seem too unbalanced when posted; although I should add that I hold my pen quite far back and if you tend to be a nib nurturer (ie. you hold your pen very close to the nib) then it may feel better unposted.
9/10

NIB AND PERFORMANCE
This is the first of my Leonardo pens to have an Elastic nib. The elastic nib is a 14k gold nib (rhodium plated) that has a number of cut-outs and longer length to assist it to provide a semi-flexible result. The nib also has an ebonite feed (always my favourite as I find the ebonite helps to make a better -wetter - writer which is my preference).


For the first fill I chose Caran d'Ache Amazon. Amazon is a drier ink and as such the flow was bit quite where I would like it. For the second fill I used Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki and the flow was perfect. Using a variety of papers, the nib worked well; and best on tomoe river. This is not a full flex nib; and I am yet to find a modern flex that even approaches the glory of vintage flex; but the Leonardo Elastic nib has a nice bounce to it and produces a little variation without too much pushing.
8/10

FILLING SYSTEM
Piston fillers are always my preference, and this is the first time Leonardo have introduced their own piston filler. 


Photo of my pen sent by Novelli

My experience with Leonardo filling systems is that they enjoy being a little innovative and experimental and I like that. Apparently this one holds 1.5ml which is a handy amount. The piston reminds me a little of the Montegrappa ratchet piston which has a little tactile ratchet feel and sound to it; but actually I prefer the Leonardo which seems to feel a little more solid to me than the Montegrappa.
10/10

COST AND VALUE
Only 100 of the Stromboli and Vesuvio were produced (50 of each) - all of which have (naturally) sold out. I believe a new batch are scheduled from November this year.

With a limited batch, a unique resin and a smaller, high quality manufacturer you can expect a higher price tag. (I must say that this is one area when the weaker Australian dollar, taxes and high cost postage can be nasty). 

Nevertheless, the Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Stromboli and Vesuvio are priced extraordinarily fairly; and the satisfaction/euphoria that comes with the end product is not to be denied.
9/10

CONCLUSION
The Stromboii is an eruption of bliss. Leonardo are proving themselves to be the new Royalty of Italian pen manufacturers; offering quality, innovation, creativity and flair!
93/100


00-50   = to be avoided at all costs
51-60   = if it’s cheap and you don’t really care….
61-70   = a nice pen with the makings of something better (just                 don’t spend too much)
71-80   = A better than average pen with just a few flaws that                     stop it from being really good
81-90   = A good pen, a keeper only a few minor places off                       being great
91-95   = Now THIS is a pen! If you can get it: keep it, love it,                     cherish it, and keep it away from the dog
96-100 = Grail



Sunday, 1 March 2020

WINNER OF PILOT 91 CH ANNOUNCED!

Congratulations to @peppercornarts for winning the Pilot 91 Custom Heritage giveaway - courtesy of bookbindersdesign.com.au

Please contact me to give me your contact details and the pen will be on its way!!

Thank you everyone for your comments and interest.

Until next tine...

Saturday, 8 February 2020

The Pilot light is on, but... (a controversial view - and a giveaway)

I have a complex relationship with Pilot.

  • I love Vanishing Points (or "Capless" if you're in Australia - so less imaginative a name!);
  • I love Decimos (marginally smaller Vanishing Points - with another lack-lustre name - but great pens);
  • I like Falcon nibs;
  • I love the gentle cushioned "thwack" of the cap when you replace it on a Prera;
  • I like Kakunos and the cheeky smily faces on the nibs.
  • I love the ingenuity of Pilot Parallels;
  • I love the quality of Pilot nibs - never had a Pilot nib that didn't work well straight out of the box.

There is no question: the Pilot light is on; but...

there is just no spark!

Ok, I'm just going to come out with it: Pilot Pens (other than Vanishing Points, Decimos and Kakunos) are dull; and yes, this includes the iconic 823.

There is nothing wrong with their quality, their ingenuity or even their creativity; but when it comes to design, (again with the notable exception of the VPs and Decimos) to me they lean towards "functional" over imaginative: the pen that takes you from A to B, no issues; then you park it, lock it, and forget about it.

THE CUSTOM HERITAGE 91
FIRST IMPRESSIONS
There is nothing wrong with the Pilot Custom Heritage 91.

Box: utilitarian (but that's fine).

Pen: yeah, it IS one. It looks like one, colour is nice. But gee, its ... O.K.
7/10

APPEARANCE AND DESIGN
I've mentioned this before but let me say again that: “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing”. Oscar Wild - The Importance of Being Earnest.

The Pilot Custom Heritage 91 is sincere.
I'm pleased that the clip isn't the ball-clip present in many other Pilot pens - ball-clips always remind me of the budget Sheaffer 'No-nonsense' pens - cheap but functional, 1970s clunky -. This clip is better, a touch more class (just a touch); but I'm not too sure about the "Pilot" engraving on the clip: simple, uppercase lettering on the top of the clip that again seems to cheapen the pen and make it look a little like the sort of throw-away pen you buy from a milk-bar or paper shop. 

The Orange, as I've said, is a good colour - and quite bright for Pilot main-stream. The black section and finials (top and bottom) go well with the orange; and the silver hardware tops it off nicely. 
The silver cap-band is probably my favourite feature from a style perspective - and I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it is that the band offers a touch of class, or variation to the pen that helps it to look a little less pedestrian, safe, and middle of the road.
7/10

WEIGHT AND DIMENSIONS 
It's a light pen.

Not too light, not too heavy. A good, practical weight for writing. Functional.

The 91 is a mid-size fountain pen (comparable in size to a Sailor ProGear Slim) at a length (capped) of around 136mm; uncapped around 123mm). 

It can post comfortably, and due to the lightness of the pen this doesn't upset the balance at all. 

While I tend to prefer my pens girthier and heavier; the Custom Heritage 91 delivers on what it promises here.
8/10

NIB AND PERFORMANCE
Pilot knows how to produce good nibs; and this, 14k gold nib is no exception. I managed to snag a soft medium (normally only available for the black model of this pen for some reason beyond me); and it is a dream!
Again for reasons that I do not understand, Pilot tends to make nibs like the Soft Medium (SM) unavailable outside of Japan. 

I have used a Pilot SM nib before: at the Pilot stand at the 2018 Sydney Pen Show. When I last used it I remarked what a fabulous nib it was. Using the SM nib in this pen I was again aghast at why this nib isn't more freely available. It's supurb.

The nib wrote beautifully out of the box. A little wet (the way I like it), a lovely bounce, perfectly smooth, with a dash of line variation. 
Ignore the B sticker, it's a SM.
If I leave the pen alone for a while and pick it up to write again - no issues. It writes beautifully first time, every time.

The nib is a size 5 - just one size too small for my preference - but utilitarian. 

As for the feed. It's plastic (as are most feeds in this range), and it works well; but for some reason, this one was a greyish colour which, for me, made it look VERY plastic and did no favour to the aesthetic of the pen or nib. The only reason I didn't score the nib higher was its size and the look of the feed; otherwise, best feature of the pen.
8/10

FILLING SYSTEM
Piston fillers are always my preference. This pen is a cartridge/ converter pen. Nothing wrong with it. Easy to clean. No issue changing inks. Utilitarian.
7.5/10

COST AND VALUE
The Custom Heritage 91 is meant to be part of Pilot's mid-range. Being mid-range however, does not make this a cheap pen. At Bookbinders Design it retails for around AU$216. Expectations at this price are greater than say for a Pilot Kakuno, Prera or Metropolitan. For AU$200 plus, this pen has to kick a few goals; and it's good - just not interesting. With so many other choices out there, it really has to appeal to you to pay this sort of money.
6/10

CONCLUSION
This blog is a personal opinion; and I know my aesthetics are not everybody's (luckily). There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Pilot Custom Heritage 91; and there is a lot that is good about it (especially the nib).

It is utilitarian. It writes well. If that is what you are looking for in a pen, then look no further.
Here it is compared with a Blue version of the same pen.
For me however, I'm (clearly) looking for a little more.

A similar size and colour Sailor just provides the spark for me that the 91 just doesn't. I know it'll work; but I want more.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts (politely of course); especially if the Pilot Custom Heritage 91 is your sort of pen. 

AND, if you REALLY like this pen, thanks to Bookbinders Design, it could be yours!

Just write a comment on this Blog story or on my instagram post for this pen by no later than Friday 14 February, (Valentines Day), and I will select a random winner of this pen. Giveaway open to international.

Overall Score: 72.5/100


0-50          = to be avoided at all costs
51-60        = if it’s cheap and you don’t really care….
61-70        = a nice pen with the makings of something better                          (just don’t spend too much)
71-80        = A better than average pen with just a few flaws                            that stop it from being really good
81-90        = A good pen, a keeper only a few minor places off                        being great
96-100      = Grail



Monday, 30 April 2018

LEONARDO - the pen with the enigmatic smile

I don't know what it is that drapes suggestively over the Italian psyche like a designer canopy; but "Italian", "art", "design" and "beauty" just seem to be different aspects of the same word.

DaVinci, Micaheangelo, Botticelli;

Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari;
Versace, Armani, Prada, Dolce Gabbana; 
OMAS, Visconti, Montegrappa, Tibaldi, Stipula, Delta;
Spag Bol...

...Enter the Leonardo Officina Italiana, Momento Zero, penna stilografica (the last bit is just Italian for 'fountain pen'; but it seemed so prosaic to throw in a couple of english words after that cornucopia of Italian lyricism) - assuming fountain pen is two words and not one - but let's not go there.

The Leonardo Momento Zero, (notionally translated as Point Zero, the beginning) is another example of Italian artistry and style showing the Quillosphere the potential for art in a beautiful writing instrument.



FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Packaging is fine (a black cardboard box with a pen inside). I know that some of you can get a little orgasmic over packaging; but it's just not my focus. It's a box OK? I bought the pen!  

Box open (instructions and booklets to the side), there she is. The "Positano Blue" resin translates well from the website of Casa Della Stilografica. The swirls of blue and white, consistent with the village of Positano on the Italian Amalfi coast, send me to visions of sea, sky and freedom.
Cap off, the gold coloured steel nib looks good. I'm not sure about the step between section and barrel; the resin is a little lighter in a few spots than I'd like; but that's over-picky. 

It's a seductive little sucker!
8/10

APPEARANCE AND DESIGN
If it wasn't already clear, the Momento Zero has a lot of strada appeal (yes, that's Italian for 'Street').

Leonardo makes this pen in a few guises: celluloid, ebonite and resin. Each of the models are the same shape and dimensions; but the celluloid and ebonite have gold nibs, are piston fillers, have ebonite feeds, are produced in very limited numbers (100 of the celluloid and 10 of the ebonite) and cost over four times more than the Resin and Steel, captive converter, plastic feed alternatives.

It would be fair to say that my pen's celluloid sibling is the star of this Model; but its resin relation is no slouch!

It was the Momento Zero's looks that first drew me to the pen on-line, and regardless of the material, the design, quality, and looks do not disappoint. 

Reminiscent of other Italian fountain pens, while not a particularly new or innovative design the Momento Zero still represents a nod to the better styles of OMAS, Delta and Montegrappa (in Montegrappa's less rococo phases). This is not entirely surprising given that Leonardo's founder, Salvatore Matron, worked for Delta and his Company has, amongst other things, put together pens for the OMAS inspired Armando Simoni Club (ASC). 

Here she is with an OMAS Paragon for comparison (and an ASC in the background)
From the moment you hold the Momento Zero and turn it in your hand, you can see the touches that suggest the Leonardo brand has a future.  From the slightly pointed finial and culo (bottom), to the depth of the resin swirls; from the roller at the end of the gold clip to the twin gold bands at the bottom of the cap; it's the details that create the momento.
The Resin version of the Momento Zero is numbered but not limited (the celluloid and ebonite versions are limitied). It's an interesting choice, but it works for me (and maintains that slightly quirky, Italian variation on a theme).The cap doesn't post deeply; but it posts securely and, while adding length, doesn't overbalance the pen but provides the profile with even more surf and sky.

Two design aspects that I am not so keen on are the lack of an ink-window (always a helpful feature but missing here) and the step between the section and barrel. The step was designed I assume to give the Momento Zero a relatively consistent profile and flow when capped. When capped, the Momento Zero's profile is relatively straight. This is achieved by having a cut between the body and section that is marked with a gold band. While the section cut delivers flow on the capped pen, that flow is jarringly severed once uncapped. It's not a huge step, but enough that I could feel a disturbance in the (design) force. 
you can see the step here under the threads, marked by the gold band. It's not big, but it's noticeable.  
The section itself is a good size. The threads are soft and towards the rear of the section so should not interfere with most people's writing position.

8/10

WEIGHT AND DIMENSIONS
It's light, but not too much so (25g). There would be no fatigue issues writing Dante's Inferno with the Momento Zero over a chianti or three.

Capped, the Momento Zero measures 142mm. Uncapped, that length reduces to around 129mm.

Posted the Momento Zero extends to 169mm. The measurements should tell you that it's not a deep poster, but it's secure. The cap is also quite light, so posting doesn't pose a balance problem. For those who grip their pen on the section (which is the majoritiy of you - unlike me), posting may make the pen a little too long; but in that case the pen is a good size uncapped in any case (buy a Penwell and your cap problem will go away!).

Using a Lamy Safari and a Pelikan 805 as comparisons, the Momento Zero measures almost identically. Although I have a tendency to prefer a marginally heavier pen, this is an excellent size and weight in my view.


8/10

NIB AND PERFORMANCE
The nib is a gold-coloured Leonardo branded #6 size steel nib. I have the Medium and it wrote smoothly immediately out of the box. 

It's more al dente than flex, so not a lot of variation or bounce; but the nib glides along the paper like a gondola on a Venetian lagoon.
The plastic feed here, is a little excited by being glistened with some Colorverse Cat Ink

The nibs are one of the differentiators between the various Leonardo Momento Zero models. The resin version is steel with a plastic feed. The celluloid and ebonite versions are 14k gold and ebonite feeds that sound extremely promising. Nevertheless, for significantly less Lira, the performance of the steel nib is delightful.
Top is normal writing, next is fast writing, bottom is reverse writing. No skips, all solid.
8/10

FILLING SYSTEM
You know by now that I'm a piston-filling sort of guy; and, of course, the celluloid and ebonite models of the Momento Zero are piston fillers.

The resin version of the Momento Zero is your next best option mixed with a little slight-of-hand in the form of a "captive converter". Sticking with the magic analogy, the captive converter provides the distraction to the audience, while the writer is in command of the real story.

What does this mean? Go to the bottom of the barrel and you unscrew the resin and reveal a brass (or gold coloured) turning knob. Put your nib in a bottle of ink, turn the knob, and for all intents and purposes, you have a piston filler in action - but you don't. 
Ooo look, a Piston-filler....
(Turn away now if you don't want to know how the trick works).

Unscrew the section and you'll see a long but otherwise fairly standard converter that goes down to the bottom of the barrel. Thus the Momento Zero resin model can be filled either with the section screwed on or off.
Here is the real story: everything unscrewed.
So it's not a piston-filler; but whichever way you choose to fill it with ink, it's easy to fill, the converter is a good size so there is a nice ink capacity, it's easy to clean, and the nib delivers that ink wonderfully to the page.

8/10

COST AND VALUE
I've made a number of references in this review to the different models of the Momento Zero and their different price points. The resin model retails for around 121 Euros; so it's not a cheap pen. For that money however, you get the look, feel and overall quality of a fountain pen that is great value for your lira.

The celluloid and ebonite versions retail at around 569 Euro (excluding VAT). I believe most are now sold out so there is no shortage of interest. Nevertheless, at that price, the celluloid and ebonite versions of the Momento Zero are up against some stiff competition, limited editions or not. As big a celluloid and ebonite lover as I am, sight unseen I wasn't prepared to take the risk to purchase the celluloid or ebonite versions. Having received the resin version, and written with it, I would have to say that I'm very impressed and suspect that the more expensive versions will also give other models a run for their money.

9/10

CONCLUSION
The Leonardo Officina Italliana Momento Zero is a piccolo touch of italian pennacchio! (the italian for style and flamboyance that, naturally, begins with a 'pen').

It looks great, performs well and is excellent value for money. I look forward to seeing the Leonardo Brand extending its offerings in the future and continuing to elicit more enigmatic smiles from its users.

82/100



00-50
To be avoided at all costs
51-60
It’s cheap and you don’t really care
61-70
A nice pen with the makings of something better (just don’t spend too much)
71-80
A better than average pen with just a few flaws that stop it from being really good.
81-90
A good pen, a keeper, only a few minor places off being great
91-95
Now THIS is a pen! If you can get it: keep it, love it, cherish it, and keep it away from the dog
96-100
GRAIL