What can be more satisfying than a Saturday morning started with a brand new pen? 

I want to do a quick mini-review of the Monograph Brass pen.  I was drawn to this, as is often the case by a post about it on the Fountain Pens UK Facebook group and decided to take a look for myself.  

I ordered this for £17.95 from www.arbolhouse.com and it arrived in 24 hours, well packed.  I had quite low expectations:  an under £20 pen is never going to get me too excited… but how happy I am to report that my initial impressions of this pen are that it is absolutely brilliant!  

Nestled in the very smart, pale green box was a solid little solid brass pen in a dark foam wedge, instructions for use and basic black cartridge to get you started.  So far, so smart.  In the hand this is a sold pen for its diminutive size – around 25g all in and it feels like it would survive a nuclear holocaust! 

Its a slim pen – 10mm across the barrel, 8.5mm section, unposted is 105mm long and posted 148mm long.  This definitely puts it firmly in the pocket or travel pen camp, but I think it’ll likely end up as an EDC for me due to it overall convenience and the general experience of writing with  it! 

Taking it from the top, then: the cap has a very smart simple clip in a deeper brass shade, nicely machine engraved with the “Monograph” brand.  It was already developing a light patina on opening the box and I think it’ll age well.  Take off the push fit cap and you’ll see a plastic liner inside the cap to reduce the risk of the pen drying out, and the cap posts nicely and fairly securely to take this pocket size pen up to a much more useful size. 

The nib is a simple size 5 steel IPG affair, but is is two-tone in finish and has a swooping fan like engraving on it which gives this a distinctly art-deco feel.  The classy looks are matched by the writing experience: the nib was smooth out of the box, with decent flow and I was really surprised by how much I like the fine-medium line it produces.  It is a nice writer – better than many much more expensive pens I own!

Unposted it’d suit someone with small hands and a low grip on the section.  In this case the balance is neutral and excellent –  I can’t see how you wouldn’t enjoy writing with this. 

With my larger hands I will be using it posted (unusual for me). In this case, the balance sits towards the back end, which I dislike, but for short periods of writing it’s really not a problem.  Its comfy and the weight makes it easy to use, the ink flow is good and I have had no skips, catches or hard starts so far.  I can tell this little pen and I will get on just fine!  

So here’s the thing.  I don’t generally like cheap pens:  even the excellent brands like Jinhao and Wingsun, Ranga, FPR etc leave me feeling mildly uneasy – I have a sense that these are “sweat-shop pens” that often lean too heavily on designs of the expensive European or US brands – and this leaves me feeling cold.  But…  this is a case of a pen in a design I haven’t come across before that completely destroys the much more expensive competition!  For example, I much prefer this to significantly more expensive Kaweco Brass pens and even the Kaweco Supra, Midori Travellers Pen or Diplomat’s Traveller pen.   £17.95 for this pen is a significant bargain and for once I have found a cheap, Chinese manufactured pen that actually makes me feel quite smug.  Like I started with:  a great way to start a Saturday morning! 

If you want to take a look for yourself, google: “Monograph Brass Pen” or visit arbolhouse.com 

I purchased this pen for myself and have no link back to the above supplier or retailer.  

This little pen is great, but probably not worth a full review!  It came to me via a group buy on FPUK organised by the wonderful Apurva Robertson who is the queen of flex nib pens – this is one of her recommendations for a starting point in modern flex, along with its sister model, the Himalaya V2.  (This pen is slightly chunkier so suited my big hands better!)  

It took about 2 weeks to come and arrived without significant packaging or fuss. The finish is… basic… a few scratches in the ebonite that can easily be polished off, a bit of machine grit in the threads – and a feed that definitely wanted cleaning before first use.  But at £35 for an ebonite, full flex pen, that is totally fine!  

The trim is simple polished plated steel, the nib is two-tone full flex steel (called ultraflex), the section is short but comfy and the cap is screw thread – 2.5 turns.  It weighs next to nothing and was supplied with a basic but adequate international converter. It sits nicely in the hand, is neutral in balance and unexciting in appearance.  But once you ink this baby up, the nib has a CRAZY amount of flex, and thats the reason you want it: its smooth enough, I haven’t really railroaded yet even with a dryish ink, no skips, and I think I could write for hours.  This is going to be great to practice modern calligraphy with, maybe do some swatching labels, and even for some funcky line variation when I write letters to friends and family – I am sure it’ll get loads of use!  

If you buy one of these – don’t go for any other nib than the ultraflex – there’s no point.  If you want a standard nib i the UK there are plenty of cheaper better options.  But for flex…. oh my!  This is FUN! And at very little expense! 

So thats all there is to say.  A simple, basic pen, but with an amazingly flexy and acceptably smooth nib for £35ish?  Hopefully that is really tempting! 

Fountain Pen Revolution’s homepage can be visited here

 

 

Today Namisu launched their next fountain pen on Kickstarter – the N1 Pocket Pen.  And after my initial excitement at receiving the email and clicking though? “Meh”- reeally not feeling it”.  

The design is… simple? A  little cylinder of aluminium (or titanium), a bolted on clip (that reminds me a bit of Karas Kustoms?), a Bock nib.  The only flourish – and maybe a nod to the Naos from Spring 2020 – is the grip detail on the section. 

I can’t not feel this is a shame.  After (in my opinion) a shaky start with the Orion, Namisu’s next 3 pens – the Studio, Horizon and Ixion were really great. They had enough similarities in their small details to feel like they were pens that had a united design ethos.  You could sense Namisu had a plan – Bauhaus meets the waves and curves of perhaps the  mid century modern?  All 4 of their pens were Bauhaus simple: all clipless, beautiful sleek metals, and some overlap in design details in the sections or barrel shapes or finial details, colour schemes etc).  I own 2 Ixions, the black aluminium and a stonewash titanium, and previously owned a Horizon – which I regret bitterly losing and keep meaning to replace.  

But in the last year, I have really fallen out of love wit Namisu.  I blame the Naos.  I was excited and invested in the Kickstarter fairly early on.  When my 2 pens (brass and titanium) arrived, I could see the idea: the inverse of the Ixion design – cylindrical cap, meet octagonal barrel… but the dead straight sides didn’t feel right, the design felt… lacking or compromised.  The clip was not good  either, and the weird grippy finial pattern – necessary to unscrew the cap if you spurned the clip – ruined the look.  And personally I didn’t like the 2 tone approach to the materials of barrel and cap.  So in spite of my hopes of liking the Naos, I didn’t feel like it was a sibling to the Ixion nor a particularly well designed pen.  (Unlike the Ixion which still draws admiring glances from colleagues at work!) I sold both, at a loss within weeks.  Bitter disappointment. 

And now the N1 has launched… and again I feel… “Meh…  The design, which is clearly meant to be phenotypically from the same family as the Naos (note the grippy strip on the section) looks disappointingly basic rather than Bauhaus.  No design link  back to any other pen Namisu have done prior to the Naos that I can see.  

Where are the beautiful deign features we loved in the good old days – tapered octagons, or flared section, or smooth alluring curves and cone ends?  

But, maybe thats the point: a simple, robust tcylinder is basically indestructible. A Bock nib (which aren’t as good or reliable as they once were but are usually solid enough and Namisu do seem to get the best of Bocks nibs in my experience) and needing cartridges only (the Kaweco min-converter is useless, I promise you)… you could maybe take a riskeye droppering it, but I’m not sure I’m that brave!)  I don’t think I’m going to like it. 

But here’s the thing… like an old flame from one’s childhood, I can’t ignore the feeling I once I had – my fondness for the Ixion and Horizon, the wonderful feel of titanium with its cool clinical grip, and no one can deny the convenience of a pocket pen with a bomb proof clip and so in spite of my reservations, I’ve backed it… and now I am hoping, against hope that all my assumptions are wrong and that this little pocket pen shines!

 

Namisu are hoping to fulfil orders in April; once I receive mine, I’ll of course review it and hope that the reality  dashes all my reservations and revives my love for this fantastic Scottish penmaker! 

To find out more, visit the Namisu Kickstarter here

Namisu’s homepage can be visited here

 

I wrote this short essay a few weeks back as part of the #FountainPenChallenge for January 2021. Its my journey, though 2020 one month at a time based on a single memory or snapshot of time.  It allowed me to re-contextualise what in many ways felt like an incredibly difficult year and reminded me of the need to always be grateful for what life gives you. 

Warning:  some of the content could “trigger” those of a more sensitive nature so consider this before you proceed.

The “nibliography” is at the end of the piece – I hope you get something out of reading it: an insight into the life of a doctor in the COVID crisis, the balance of life vs work in an NHS career or to know me a bit better.  No people, places, areas have been named, deliberately.  

(Click to enlarge in gallery view – it should be roughly like reading a book!)