Monday, April 19, 2010

Similar Inks: Diamine Majestic Blue and Sailor Jentle Blue

Diamine Majestic Blue and Sailor Jentle Blue

Recently while swabbing a pile of inks, I noticed a few similarities. In this shot, Diamine's Majestic Blue and Sailor's Jentle Blue seemed awful close ..... down to the reddish sheen and everything. Not saying that these inks perform the same, just looked the same at this moment in time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Aurora Ipsilon Fountain Pen

Aurora Ipsilon Fountain Pen on Clairefontaine

I recently received this fine nibbed Aurora Ipsilon fountain pen from Kenro Pens. The Ipsilon was one of the first pens I remember looking at when I first became interested in fountain pens. Selling for around $100, I think at the time I may have considered it a bit too rich for my blood opting instead for the less expensive Lamy Safari. (Which sell for around $35.)

Aurora Ipsilon Fountain Pen

Fast forward a couple of years, and I now own close to 20 different pens. To me, the most important feature of each is that they be comfortable enough in my hand for daily use.

Aurora Ipsilon Fountain Pen

The Ipsilon is my first Italian made pen and I love its sleek design and super happy yellow color. (Which may appear a bit more intense in these pics than in real life because of the contrast levels.) My husband being the die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, tried snagging it but I said, "No way! Getcher own!"

Aurora Ipsilon Fountain Pen

The clip on the Ipsilon is significant and strong. The cap is removed/capped with an audible "click." Posting the cap on the back of the pen, it too clicks into place and makes me feel as though there would be less body wear here, than on a pen where the cap is pushed down onto the body. (I suppose time will tell.)

Aurora Ipsilon Fountain Pen

I absolutely "love" that the bottom band of the cap is beveled and smooth. I almost always post the cap on the back of my pens as I write, and the bottom of the cap band on other pens sometimes rubs and annoys the webbing between my thumb and first finger. (I have this problem with my Sailor 1911)

The Ipsilon can use either cartridges (Aurora brand) or the included ink converter to fill from a bottle. I must say that in all of the converter pens I have used, (9 Lamy & 2 Sailor) this is the first one that pulled ink all the way to the top without having to fiddle with it to get it full. One day I will have to see if this converter fits into any of my other pens and if so, replace all of them with ones from Aurora.

I also must mention that while I love yellow pens, I do not love ink stains on them. I really like the way that the Ipsilon has a black front section to avoid discoloration from repeated dippings.

Comparison: M200, Ipsilon & Sapporo fountain pens

The Ipsilon nib has a different feel than any of my other pens, and it took me a little while to get used to it. It's a short firm nib without a lot of give. A smooth writer, but if used on non-high quality paper, there is a little bit of feedback to the nib which is not unpleasant.

Left to right - Aurora Ipsilon, Pelikan M200 and Sailor Sapporo.

Ipsilon: gold plated steel nib C/C (cartridge/converter) approximately $95
Sapporo :14k nib C/C filler approximately $150
M200 gold: plated steel nib piston filler approximately $95

Comparison: M200, Ipsilon & Sapporo fountain pens

Showing the pens capped. Left to right - Aurora Ipsilon, Pelikan M200 and Sailor Sapporo.

I find the Ipsilon similar in size and feel to the Pelikan M200 and Sailor Sapporo. I think the body and overall design of the Ipsilon feels very solid, like the Sapporo. (I think M200s have great nibs, but the bodies feel cheap. )

Comparison: M200, Ipsilon & Sapporo fountain pens

Showing the pens uncapped. Left to right - Aurora Ipsilon, Pelikan M200 and Sailor Sapporo.

The Ipsilon and M200 are long enough to comfortably use unposted, while the Sapporo is kind of small for my hand without the cap posted on the back.

Comparison: M200, Ipsilon & Sapporo fountain pens

Showing the pens with the caps posted. Left to right - Aurora Ipsilon, Pelikan M200 and Sailor Sapporo.

99% of the time, I write with my pens posted. It has always felt to me as though this is how they were designed to exhibit the best balance in the hand. I still claim the Sapporo to be the pen with the best balance, (in my collection) but the Ipsilon comes in a close second because it's just a smidge top heavy when posted. (M200 is too light overall.)

The only thing that I wish were a little different about the Ipsilon is how hard you have to pull the cap off. While I certainly appreciate a secure cap, you have to be a little cautious when removing the cap. If you don't put your hands close together when you remove it from the body, I'd be concerned about the possibility of banging the nib against the inside of the cap when separating the cap from the body.

Handwriting sample from fine nibbed Aurora Ipsilon

Handwriting sample from the Ipsilon, Aurora black ink in a Leuchtturm journal. As that was my first time using Aurora ink, I am curious to test it in other pens, as well as testing other inks in this pen.

For around $100, I find the Ipsilon to be a solidly built pen with a sleek design.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: Aurora Blue Fountain Pen Ink

Aurora Blue Ink

Aurora Blue fountain pen ink. One of only two kinds of Aurora inks available. (The other is black.) I'd heard a great deal about Aurora inks and their smooth writing capabilities and Kenro Pens was generous in allowing me to sample a bottle.

I know that Aurora pens are made in Italy, and I can only assume that the ink is made their as well, as I wasn't able to locate any such information on Aurora's website.

I've heard that some people have commented about the design of this bottle being too tall and narrow, but I find it the perfect size for serving my pens a drink.

Aurora Blue

Sometimes when faced with too many choices, I tend to get overwhelmed and simply shut down. In the last two years, I've probably tried about 20 different blue inks and quite honestly, they have all started to look the same.

So for me, I think sometimes less is more. This ink has been in use in a fine nibbed Lamy Safari, and in the past, this hasn't been one of my favorite pens because its been a bit of a dry writer. The Aurora ink in this pen is smooth, nice flowing and all around pretty well behaved.

I've been on the fence about picking a dark blue ink, having recently been liking Diamine's Majestic Blue (very saturated with a reddish sheen) and Sailor's Jentle Blue (super smooth but smells really bad....) and I'm thinking of clearing the shelf and just sticking with this one. Side by side, the Sailor is more green and the Aurora cooler in tone.

In this fine nib, (which writes more like an EF) there is some shading but it's hard to see.

The 45ml bottles range in price from $12-13 and can be found online at Swisher Pens and Pear Tree Pens.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review: Rhodia dotPad

Rhodia dotPad

Nanna nanna nanna nanna nanna nanna nanna nanna dotPad! (Sung to the old Batman TV show theme and I can't help it. Every time I think dotPad, I hear that song in my head. dotPad!)

With an updated black and white cover scheme and those crazy purple dots, as Diane from PocketBlonde recently said about the dotPad, "it's definitely not your father's Rhodia pad."

Rhodia dotPad

One of the latest additions to the Rhodia line up, this tablet consisting of not lines or graph, but of tiny violet dots spaced 5mm apart - a dot grid if you will.

Rhodia dotPad

Do you remember playing Lines & Dots as a child? A pad of this paper stashed in the glove box might keep the kids occupied while traveling across the interstate to Grandma's house.

Rhodia dotPad

I also found it to be an extremely unobtrusive way to practice my calligraphy, because I happen to abhor lines of any kind on my paper. Writing on graph paper with all those intersecting lines behind my words is enough to give me hives. If I can't have blank paper, I want the dotPads.

Rhodia dotPad

Typical 80g bright white ph neutral acid free Rhodia paper is smooth, fountain pen friendly and resists bleedthrough.

While currently only available in the 6 x 8 1/4" A5 size, three additional sizes, (one smaller and two larger,) will be coming soon – either late April or early May.





Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How I Strive to Live my Life

How I strive to live my life....

Every day, I do my best.

To be mindful
and thoughtful
and kind.
To listen with empathy
believe in abundance
and live in my truth.

-Stephanie

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: New J. Herbin Limited Edition Anniversary Ink 1670 Rouge Hematite

J. Herbin 340th Anniversary Ink Rouge Hematite

"This ink has been especially made to celebrate the 340th Anniversary of J.Herbin. With a dark red color and earthy tone, this intense and deep dye this ink will bring brightness and majesty to all your writing."

Dark red color and earthy tone... haha... This is blood red ink if I've ever seen it. Perhaps a way to indulge writers to write more vampire stories in the vein of Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris.

In early French promotional literature for this ink, I saw it described as "Rouge Hematite" which could be translated as blood red. On the box and in the catalog, this ink is known as "1670" and the name of the color will be "Rouge Hematite."

J. Herbin 340th Anniversary Ink Rouge Hematite

50ml per bottle, and retailing for approximately $20 in the US, the cap is made with official wax cherry ref. H310/24, (not imported to the US by Exaclair) and the seal with glue gun wax gold ref. H358/04.

The bottle arrived with it's cap covered in wax and when I went to open the bottle, the cap came off quite easily... as if it might not have been tightly secured.

J. Herbin 340th Anniversary Ink Rouge Hematite

Once I put the cap back on and gave it a secure twist, the wax broke and crumbled off.... Hmmm... Not sure if I like this for two reasons. One, is that the aluminum cap under the wax is unattractive and doesn't go at all with the "classic" bottle theme. IMHO, it should have been black plastic like the rest of their caps, but maybe they couldn't get the wax to stick to the plastic. The second reason I don't care for it is unless you pick all of the wax off, when you open the bottle, you could inadvertently get wax inside the bottle and I have no idea how that could potentially affect the mixture, or if it could contaminate it in any way.

I am not crazy about the smaller opening on this bottle. As I can sometimes be a clumsy oaf when filling pens, I find it too narrow of an opening and in fact, when I submerged the nib of my Safari into the bottle, I managed to overflow the ink down the side.... This is one of 4 bottles Exaclair received directly from France and I go slopping it up all to heck. You can see the way I stained the gold elastic near the top of the bottle.

J. Herbin 340th Anniversary Ink Rouge Hematite

Front of the box, (which arrived shrink wrapped in plastic) note that the ink was made to match the color of the classic Herbin logo. No clue what all of the icons represent, thoughI have seen some on other bottles of Herbin ink.

J. Herbin 340th Anniversary Ink Rouge Hematite

To confirm, the back of the box reads, "Ink for fountain pens." (Note my stained inky fingers)

J. Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite Ink

With maybe the exception of Herbin's Perle Noire, (only because I can't see through that ink to the bottom of the bottle,) this might be the most heavily saturated Herbin fountain pen ink I've yet to encounter. The black areas at the top of the image are (what I am guessing to be) undissolved dye. Of note, I tested this ink with only a little agitation in one pen, and then I shook the heck out it to dissolve the dye and filled it into a separate pen and once I wrote with them, the results were for the most part, indistinguishable.

If you are wondering about the inscriptions on the bottom of the bottle.

The manufacturer of the bottle provided the following information:
  • A means Food / Alimentary
  • 5 means 5 CL= measurement equivalent to 50ml
  • Logo VetroElite
  • 3 number referring to the mold used for the bottle

J. Herbin 340th Anniversary Ink Rouge Hematite

While I have tested most all of my J. Herbin inks in this Clairefontaine Basics journal, I'd like to point out that this 90g bright white paper can sometimes tend to make dry inks (ones without great flow) and pens with a less than magnificent flow seem kind of stingy and laborious to write with.

I initially tested the 1670 ink in a .5 cursive italic (specially cut by Pendemonium) Lamy Safari - (red of course,) and was at once surprised how saturated and how... orange this red ink was. (but don't get me wrong... it is definitely a red ink.) My first thought was of Diamine's Monaco Red but no... I'll get back to my comparisons in a minute. The ink had great flow in the Safari on the Clairefontaine paper, and later in the medium nibbed Al-Star as well. Looking closely, there is some shading but like most heavily saturated inks, it's not very pronounced.

Now for the interesting part, the pen with the thinner nib (the Safari) was filled from the bottle when I had only lightly agitated it. When I wrote with it, it looked slightly darker than the wider nibbed pen which was filled after I shook it violently. Go figure. I usually see thinner nibbed pens write lighter than wider nibbed pens filled with the same ink. In her recent review of this ink, Margana from Inkophile said she liked the chameleon aspect, and that it leans orange-red depending on lighting conditions as well as nib width and flow. I would tend to agree.

Though I have not tested every available red ink on the planet, I have tested quite a few and this not like any color of red I've sampled before.

The color I would say is the closest, would be my all-time favorite red, Diamine's Poppy - but the 1670 has more shading and leans more towards orange/brown. (Like blood) I find it looks more brown on off-white paper, my personal favorite, and I happen to prefer the way Poppy stays more "red" on off-white paper than the 1670.

These are the inks I compared it to, and how I perceived the differences:

It's more orange than Diamine Ruby
Brighter and more orange than Rohrer & Klingner's Morinda
Darker and more brown than Diamine's Vermillion
Darker and more brown than pink of Diamine's Passion Red
More red/orange than Diamine's Monaco Red
More reddish brown than Diamine's Maroon
and lastly, darker and more red/brown than Herbin's Rouge Caroubier.

Of the 4 bottles that Exaclair recently received, I received one to sample, as did Margana from Inkophile and Ryan from Pear Tree Pens. (The 4th bottle will be up for inspection at the National Stationery Show in NYC May 16-19th.) Margana and Ryan both noted that this ink seemed to have a longer than usual dry time, which could pose problematic for lefty writers. As I've come to expect some amount of drying time from all of my fountain pen ins, I quite honestly didn't give it much thought as I was testing it, but after reading their comments, I went back and checked and yes.... it does take a little longer to dry but still nowhere near what I have deemed to be "the ink with the longest drying time ever, in any pen, and on any paper, Noodler's Red-Brown."

While Margana and I both experienced the ink to have excellent flow, Ryan experienced the ink to be rather dry writing... he has told me that he will test the ink in a different pen to see if it is indeed the ink and not the pen.

The initial shipment from France is only 100 bottles and those are being limited 10 per retailer, on a first come first serve basis. As I am certain this first batch will sell out almost immediately, though set to be a limited edition ink, future shipments are expected.

J. Herbin 340th Anniversary Ink Rouge Hematite

I tested this ink against a myriad of other brands/shades of reddish inks. Top right hand color is Visconti Burgundy, a deeper darker more pink shade of red, and Herbin's Rouge Caroubier - a lighter more pinkish shade of red.

Mandala in Herbin Rouge Hematite

I created the above doodle on white Clairefontaine sketch paper and though the ink is what I would definitely describe as an "orangey-red" when I applied water to the ink from a waterbrush, it pulled out what looked to be bright shades of pink. I must emphasize that though this ink is not a pinkish red, it had those characteristics when water was applied. I've seen similar situations with several different orangey Diamine colors - water applied, pink comes out. I'm guessing it has something to do with the dye mixtures.




Monday, April 5, 2010

Review: Clairefontaine Roadbook

Clairefontaine Roadbook

Clairefontaine's new Roadbook journal, part of their new Life. Unplugged series.

At 3 1/2 x 5 1/2" it's small enough to slip in your pocket & hit the dusty trail. It contains 128 pages of Clairefontaine's famous 90g bright white ph neutral acid-free, super fountain pen friendly lined (7mm ruled) paper. (Whew!)

Sold assorted, they come in the same colors as all of the Clairefontaine Basics products, (known as "Age Bag" outside the US) red, tan, black and green.

Clairefontaine Roadbook

Inside the front cover you will find a leader page containing a printed map and a place to put your name, date, etc., if you so choose. I expected to find other printed pages with information such as world telephone exchanges, or an international time table, but after this page, it goes straight to the lined paper.

Clairefontaine Roadbook

Product information printed on the last page of the book. Notice the small imprint at the bottom left of the page.

Clairefontaine Roadbook

The book can be secured shut by a stretchy elastic band, but the grommets may leave an impression on the opposing page. Me personally, I don't like anything that I might be able to "feel" as I'm writing. Kind of like the "Princess and the Pea" scenario. (Same reason why I don't put things in the back pockets of my journals.)

Clairefontaine Roadbook

The glued spine of this book will certainly keep the book from falling apart, but I had a heck of a time getting it to open anywhere near flat. I had to work the spine open & closed quite a few times which them leaves the book kind of... open, unless you secure it with the elastic band. If you want a journal with this thick 90g paper, it's really difficult to construct a binding that lies perfectly flat unless you reduce the number of pages in the book.

Clairefontaine Roadbook

Since the book doesn't exactly open flat, it may be a chore to hold it in one hand while writing with the other - something a traveler might want to do while off on an adventure...

Clairefontaine Roadbook

To aid in getting the book to open as flat as possible, Clairefontaine scored the cover - which is good in theory, but if holding the book in one hand, which ever side the of the book has less pages is going to tend to flop back a bit. (Hardcover books wouldn't have this problem)

Clairefontaine Roadbook

The cover on all of the products in the Basics line are a stiff, but thin and flexible cardboard.

Clairefontaine Roadbook

Due to the way the cover is scored in combination with the binding design, it does not allow you to fold the book back on itself - something that could help stabilize the book when writing on the go.

All in all, I'm almost never writing on a flat surface, and the ability for a book to open as flat as possible is really important to me. I've noticed that several of Clairefontaine's products (with the exception of the Habana) have to be encouraged to open/lie flat. While I am quite aware of the luxurious feel of writing on this paper, I'd almost prefer a thinner 64g paper (like in the small Habana) in situations where the binding design cannot allow for maximum openness.

The Roadbook is retailing for around $7 and is currently available. Click here to find a retailer.

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Mantra and Mandala

Mantra Mandala

For several years, I have been enjoying the use of mantras for healing and also as a way to move vibrational energy within me. I first learned about mantras five years ago in a drumming workshop called "The Yoga of Drum and Chant" taught by my friend Jim Donovan.

In the workshops, we use steady almost trance-like drum rhythms combined with the call and response style chanting of simple non-devotional mantras such as "Om" or "Ah" to connect to a higher part of ourselves. This usually allows me to become more focused and open and provides a general sense of well being. Some of the mantras, such as "Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung" (A Tibetan mantra used for healing) are used more energetically - Jim will start that one slow, and then gradually take the rhythm faster & faster & faster... drums pounding away... it's fabulous!

I recently found a new mantra, "Om Prasannatmane Namaha" in one of Thomas Ashley Farrand's books. It encourages cheerfulness in frustrating times and it makes me happy just to see the words on paper or to repeat it in my mind.

When I'm learning a new mantra, I typically write it over and over in a journal I have set aside specifically for that purpose. I also enjoy incorporating it into my mandala art, as seen in the above image.

I would love to hear about your experiences with mantras.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Similar Inks: Diamine Sunshine Yellow and Rohrer & Klingner Helianthus

Diamine Sunshine Yellow and Rohrer & Klingner Helianthus

When I was recently swabbing some new fountain pen inks, I happened to notice some similarities...

Shown above are Diamine's Sunshine Yellow and Rohrer & Klingner's Helianthus. I mainly use the Sunshine for creating art, and have not yet tried the Helianthus.

I'm not suggesting that these inks are similar in any characteristics other than the colors I saw on that day and in that light.

Black & White Mandala over Yellow Diamine Ink

I think I used Sunshine Yellow for the background on this mandala... though it could have been Yellow. (Also by Diamine.)
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