Friday, 23 June 2017

Manuscript 1856 Northern Lights 1.1 nib Review

Some names in the pen industry have been around for a very short while, some have been around for ever and make the same things every year, and some...

Some Innovate...

So it is the case with the latest offerings from Manuscript.  I have a Manuscript pen from years ago, unremarkable but reliable would be how I best describe it, it doesn't form part of my every day carry because it's too light, and the nib doesn't flow the way I like, so it was with some interest that I agreed to review the new model, just to see if things have been improved.

I chose the Northern Lights colour scheme, with the 1.1 italic nib, which would not normally be my choice to use, but it was the only way to get an objective comparison with the existing Manuscript pen that I have.

The new pens are light, but solid, the description indicates that they're made out of Italian Resin, and I'm not enough of a materials specialist to speak of what that might be.  In practical terms, it feels like thick Acrylic, the patterns are a little different every time due to the setting process, but as I don't have several on stand by, I can't speak for that either.  What I can say is that it's a very attractive pen.

Solid in feel, but not heavy, coming in at 20g, but with the thickness of the barrel, it feels as if it should weigh more than it does.  The cap is a screw top, as is the rear of the pen, and it's here that I have an issue, the screw is made from the same acrylic, and it doesn't always seat in the thread first time.

It's not a massive inconvenience, but whereas with a metal screw, you wouldn't worry about damaging the thread quite as much, with this, there's the concern that if you pushed a little too hard, you might crack or wedge it in.  In comparison with the solid nature of the rest of the pen, this seemed out of place.

It takes standard international cartridges and comes with a convertor, the nib is a Jowo with the Manuscript logo etched on to it, so the flow is as good as you would expect.

It's a comfortable size for someone with larger hands to write with, the barrel is wide all the way along and while you can post it, it does effect the balance with some significance due to the overall lightness of the pen.

When it came to writing with the pen, I have no hand for italic writing, so I handed over to my wife, who was gracious enough to put this down.

It flows well, and while thirsty due to the size of the nib being used, it has a well controlled flow and doesn't blob on the page at any point, something very useful when I came to write the second sentence in my slower handwriting.

It comes in a good, solid box with a letter explaining all about the history of the pen and everything else to do with it, but the excellent quality of the box only had me thinking that they could have spent the time and effort on finishing the pen in the same way, and they'd have had a true contender.

The ML1856 retails at £125, which puts it in the same price point as Platinums #3776, Cross's Century II, Pilot's Capless, and Diplomat's Excellence.  The feel of it is similar to that of the Namisu Nova, only half the weight (and almost twice the price), and as I'm many will have guessed, I don't feel this to be in the same league as the pens at the same price point.  If you like large pens that don't feel like dumbbells when you pick them up, this is excellent, it's a good nib, and the distinctive colouring of it makes it stand out well from most other things, for me, it's a little style over substance.

As always, I didn't buy this pen, it was provided so I could provide a review for it.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Notebook Reviews - Silvine Originals

A short while ago, one of the notebooks I was given to review struck a chord on a number of levels, this was the Silvine Pocket notebook, impressing me with the combination of superb paper, excellent binding, and reasonable price point.

It turns out that the Pocket is not the only Silvine notebook out there, there’s a whole family, and they come in a range to suit anyone. 

As always, in advance, I did not pay for these notebooks, they were given as a sample in return for an honest review.

The thing about Silvine notebooks, whichever size they come in, is that the paper is excellent, it’s just absorbent enough to bite, but it doesn’t drink the pen, and as those who know me will attest, paper than can hold the ink without having the whole cartridge is very important to me.  To demonstrate this, I had friends over the weekend, and as the lady in question needed a new fountain pen, I decided to carry out the consultation on one of the notebooks given. 

This is the Project Notebook

Light blue five millimetre squares on one side and blank on the other to allow a combination of illustrations, diagrams, and writing (in whichever orientation you prefer), I let the lady loose, and as she is an enthusiastic bunny (Sorry H, but you are), she proceeded to try all the pens and many of the colours.

With the following results

And the page after

Bleedthrough, even when using the Kanji brushes, is minimal, and if you’re looking at the page rather than photographing it under high light, it’s almost non-existent.

This for me is at the core of the Silvine appeal, the paper is almost without equal, thicker and more resilient than Tomoe whilst retaining the tactile quality that allows writing using any width nib with equal efficiency.

That said, the notebooks I use tend to come in two different sizes, huge, and tiny, and Silvine do a number of others.

This is the Exercise book, harking back to the days of school (At least when I was a kid) when most books came with a margin built in, or had one drawn in biro to split the page up. A5 in size, same quality paper, perforated down the edge and coming with a backing board to let you write on any surface just in case you don’t have an old style desk handy.  Not to be confused with the lower quality books that we got to use at school, just in case anyone remembers the cheap and cheerful silvines we had to use back then.

This is the Notebook, 190x125 mm, it’s just a little smaller than a moleskine notebook, same perforations in the side and while blank (not a bonus for me), it’s a good size to carry around.

The Pocket I’ve already gone into on another review, but it remains part of my every day carry, just for jotting things down and storing them in the Fauxdori for use later.

All of these are available from, they are more expensive than most notebooks, the Pocket is £6.50 for 3, the Memo is £4.50, the Note is £6, the Exercise £7, and the Project £14.  However, other notebooks don’t have the level of quality that these books do, and getting fountain pen quality paper in a regular notebook is a rare enough occurrence, getting it in the larger sizes is all but impossible.  The only one of the notebooks that I’d hesitate in buying again would be the Project, and that’s because for the same price, I could get a new Leuchtturm, and I have a thing for hardbound notebooks.

The last thing is the Story book, which isn't actually a notebook to write in, but a written history of the notebooks, where they came from and where they're going.

Fascinating to read through, but ultimately not a notebook, however, I am cheered by the notion that even with so long out of circulation, they're back and going strong.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Because Poetry should adapt, with apologies to Kipling...

If you can run good games when all about you
Are dropping out and abandoning theirs
If you can trust your vision when all else doubt you
But understand why they don’t share it
If you can watch the door and not be tired by watching
Or have promises broken, while keeping your own
Or deal with jealousy, from those who did nothing
And yet still invite them back time and again

If you can dream, but not forget that dreams are just that without work
If you can think, and know that more than thought is needed
If you can see both Triumph and Disaster
And know that only your volunteers make the difference
If you can bear to hear the advice of others
Who’ve never stood where you are, but think to comment anyway
Or watch the things you give your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em again with worn-out feet:

If you can make one heap of programmes
And hope that everyone takes one, so you don’t have to take them home,
And finish each day, and start again the next
And never breathe a word about the sleep you never got;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your attendees before and after they are gone,
And hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the drive that says to you: 'Next Year…'

If you can talk with Traders and keep your patience,
Or walk with Directors - one step back and to the right,
if neither Umpires nor Cosplayers can faze you,
If all Volunteers count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of crowd control,
Yours is the Convention and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be an organiser, of gamers…

Sunday, 14 May 2017

And following New Inks, New Notebooks...Part Two...

And following on from Part One, here are the other notebooks that came across to review.

First on the lineup is the Story Supply Notebook

Because everyone should have a supply of stories...
Thick card cover over thin lined paper, and I do mean thin lined, this paper was designed for those who write small (like me), it's double copper stapled, and the inner front cover contains a small plaque that lets you write your details, what's in the book, and in the event of loss, return to...

The paper itself is a little thirstier than many of the other books, but it's pleasant to write on and I do like those thin lines.  Given the thickness of the card cover, it's a sturdy journal, little bit stiff for the back pocket, but if you're using it for every day carry, very good.

Which brings me to the journal that got the most intensive testing, the Clairfontaine Retro Nova

Not all colouring on the front cover comes with every journal.
This requires a little explaining, whenever my nieces come over to visit, they want to have a go with the pens and practise writing and drawing, and I can't just give them any paper to work with, I have to give them something that they won't have any problems with, and one that can stand up to occasional hard wear and tear.


Not only did it survive, but it did so with style, as with most Clairefontaine, it's 90gsm, but with a slight Ivory tint to it, threadbound for extra resiliency and with only minimal bleedthrough even through every nib known to me had been applied to the other side of it.  Same solid construction as the Story supply, so maybe a bag book rather than a back pocket book.

And that brings us to the Dark Horse in this particular set of reviews...

This is the Silvine Pocket Journal

Deceptive on first glance, it's a small (110/72) notebook with a stiff card cover.  The paper within is fine (feels like 80gsm), but it has a curious texture to it, slightly rough to the touch, not enough that it distracts from writing on the page (unless you can only write on Tomoe River), so much so that I was inspired to write with several different inks on it, just to see...

But most impressive of all was 

No bleed through at all, and while I appreciate that I write with thinner nibs, several of the other notebooks had the same inks on them and bled through.  The binding is sewn and bound properly with matching thread, and all the pages are perforated for easy removal when you want to keep an idea elsewhere.  The utility of this journal is unparalleled, small enough to fit in any pocket, solid paper that doesn't bleed but doesn't need blotting, and as solid a binding and cover as any of the other Journals.  

Without question, in the context of every day carry, my choice is the Silvine, surprisingly good notebook in a very handy size.  Not quite wallet sized (which would have rendered it perfect), but close enough to add to a passport sized fauxdori without bulking it out at all.  

Thanks again to Stuart from Pocket Notebooks, it's good to see that notebooks are still evolving and better yet, still in demand.

And following New Inks, New Notebooks...Part One...

So last week it was new Inks, this week, courtesy of Stuart from Pocket Notebooks, curiously enough...

It's Notebooks...

I've been given a whole bunch of Notebooks to have a look through and review, as always, no payment received, but nor have I paid for the books in question.  The initial thought was that one or two notebooks might come through, so imagine the surprise when just a few more came through...

And they range from cheap and cheerful to very specialised notebooks indeed.  So in no particular order, I'm going to start with the California series, which come in two different versions, The Back Pocket Journal, and the Back Pocket Tomoe River Journal.

If you gonna be a bear...

Be a Grizzly...
The upper notebook is the Tomoe River version, 48 sheets of Tomoe River paper string bound and tied, my own proclivities regarding Tomoe River paper are well known, it is the best paper in the world for writing with a fountain pen, bar none, and the paper here is exactly that.  

The quandary I had here was that while I always carry a fountain pen and I always carry a notebook, I found myself wondering if I'd actually use this particular Journal because TR tends to need blotting paper to ensure that you don't end up copying your writing to the next page, and it's no different with this.

The other Journal I liked a lot, with 105gsm paper and a very smooth finish, the ink test went like this...

Some bleed through, it's a thirsty paper, and despite being 105, it's not thick enough to hide most inks that were tried on it.  That said, it's a nice Journal with good binding and a solid cover, which would make for a very good pocketbook.  I would use this more than the Tomoe River version, but both are reasonably priced for a set of three books.

Next up was the Inky Fingers notebook

Because which one of us doesn't have Inky Fingers...

Interesting this one, the cover (as can be seen) is glossy cardstock.  The paper within is something else though. 80GSM wheat straw paper that resists feathering and bleeding quite well whilst being very tactile to work with.

As evidenced above, the bleed through was significantly less than the California 105, and with the feel of the paper itself (not quite silk, not quite satin), it justifies its higher price tag.  Binding on the book is twin staple, and the ruling on it is 6mm, which is larger than I tend to use, so of less interest to me, but anyone using a broader nib will certainly find use in this.

Next up is the Darkstar Nomad

Because everything should have an EPIC name...

Name not withstanding, Darkstar are some of my favourite notebooks and for good reason.  The Nomad is no exception, the cover is plain cardboard, the paper within is 100gsm dot gridded in blue rather than black, and as I use a Darkstar for my regular Ink testing, I can attest to the quality of the paper within.

There is some bleedthrough, but it doesn't drink the pen and it's got a nice feel to it when writing.  The pages are slightly larger than most of the pocket books, which allows you to write without fear of taking up all the pages, and the notebook itself is twin staple bound.  I am biased due to previous experience when it comes to Darkstar, but this is a lovely notebook.

Which brings me to the end of part one...

The other notebooks (and my conclusions) are in part two...

In case anyone's mind is already made up though, all of these can be found at