...Laura's Favorite Pens this Year! (Part Two)

...Laura's Favorite Pens this Year! (Part Two)

Last week, I shared my story about store owner Leena giving me an exciting and challenging new blog article assignment to write about my top 10 pens of 2022. Just to recap, I decided that I would focus on my personal favorites from the past twelve months working at Pen Boutique, and that I would select pens I actually own, and also pens I admire and would like to own. I talked about three pens in the first episode, and this week I will share four more, starting with two pens whose charms made me break down and buy them! 

Pelikan M205 Petrol-Marbled

As you may imagine, a pen lover working in a pen store is surrounded by temptations. I try to be frugal, so I usually resist, but there were a few times I didn't. The most significant one was my birthday. It was an important birthday, and had gone by leaving me feeling a little sad and empty. A few days later, I was by myself working in the store and the Petrol-Marbled Pelikan M205 reached out to me. I had discovered this beautiful pen about a month earlier, when I'd helped a customer try it, and had been regularly admiring it in the case, but hadn't considered actually buying it. That day I suddenly knew that it was important for me to have something special to commemorate this birthday, and that the Petrol-Marbled Pelikan was it.

As soon as I knew, I knew. The decision was spontaneous, but, at the same time, it wasn't. I took the pen out of the display case, dipped it in ink, and wrote with it. The nib felt perfect, but I didn't want to buy something impulsively. I carefully compared it to the other M200 and M205 Pelikans (the numbers that end in "5" indicate pens with silver trim, and the "0" numbers have gold trim) just to make sure. They were all beautiful, but I was definitely most attracted to the Petrol-Marbled model. 

Petrol is a color I had been thinking about a lot for the past few weeks. I'd even told my nieces about my fascination with the color when we went to tea for my birthday. It's a liminal dark teal shade that is more blue than green. I've been exploring and reading about colors for a long time, but I had never heard of petrol until I encountered it at Pen Boutique.  We sell other things that are petrol colored, too, and I couldn't remember if seeing this Pelikan was the first time I'd encountered the word or not. It didn't matter. To me, it was the petrol-colored thing.

I used the store display pen throughout the day when I needed to write small notes, and I also compared the pen in two other nib sizes.  No, the display model was the exact color and nib size that was perfect for me.  We only had one pen in stock in that size, so at the end of the day I told Joy I wanted to buy it, and found the empty box that matched.  When I brought it home that night, I held it up and took a photo, and the swirls in the resin sparkled like the ocean. I knew I had made the right choice.

Right away, I dipped my pen in purple ink and used it to draw a sketch of poet Mary Oliver (not sure why... that was spontaneous, too). I loved it, and it felt like mine right away.

When I fell for the Petrol-Marbled M205, I wasn't merely crazy about the color and the way it wrote. I had practical reasons as well. I had just volunteered to write a blog article on the ten new Conklin inks, and I'd been thinking about which of my pens I would use to test them. I wanted to choose a pen that would write well and also be exceptionally quick to clean thoroughly. I already owned a White Tortoise M400, so I knew that you can easily unscrew a classic Pelikan's nib and remove it from the pen to rinse or soak it in water. (I wrote about the filling and cleaning process in great detail in my Pelikan blog article, so check it out if you haven't tried a piston-filler. I was intimidated before I bought my first Pelikan, but using this kind of filling mechanism is actually a breeze.)

My M400 is a broad with a custom-ground stub nib, though, so it's not a sensible choice for testing inks. Plus, it has sentimental value to me, so I don't want to use it for store stuff or risk staining the translucent barrel.  A less expensive steel-nibbed Pelikan was perfect for what I needed. The M200 series is built just like the other Pelikan Classics--the amazing gold-nibbed Souverän M1000, M800, M600, and M400 series--but has a lower price and comes in so many pretty barrel designs that aren't available for the more expensive pens. I knew it would give me that Pelikan experience I already loved, but I wouldn't worry about using it for anything that came up. And, because the M200 series uses the same size nib as the M400 series Souveräns, you can even swap their nibs back and forth, or fit vintage Pelikan nibs in them if you really want to get serious and experiment with different nib choices!

I've used my pen for many blog articles since then (not just the one I wrote about Pelikans), and I often draw and write with it.  I love the smooth and wet but precise fine nib, and the vintage look and feel of the pen. The small size fits my hand well and is lightweight and easy to bring with me anywhere.  

Pelikans are wet writers, so I've found that they prefer much drier inks than my Pilots.  It was fun discovering that inks I'd dismissed in the past as being too dry were in fact perfect for this pen. My Pelikans love Edelstein ink, and another ink I recently discovered is a perfect match for this pen is Scribo Verde Bosco. We don't carry Scribo inks, but you may already own it.  It's petrol!


Kaweco Skyline Sport in Iridescent Pearl

I'll try not to tell such a long story about my Iridescent Pearl Kaweco. Like the Pelikan, it's a pen I actually bought, but this pen wasn't a big deal to me like that one. It was just fun. The little plastic pen only costs $27, so, with my employee discount, it was quite inexpensive. The Kaweco Sport wasn't a pen I'd thought a lot about (although I did think they were cute), but in early March when the collector's edition Iridescent Pearl color was released, I made an Instagram video about them with Shriya and Winnie, who were high school seniors at the time. 

The unusual new color was a very hot seller, and even though it had just come out two days before, we only had 19 left and had already sold out in every nib size except double broad.  I still remember Winnie's line from my video:  "All the ones left are double broad, but they're not actually that broad. Laura and I tried writing with one!"  In the video, she holds up a piece of paper showing our experimentation with the pen.  I think writing with that pen together was the first time I really started to feel close to Winnie and Shriya, and it was true:  the double broad felt great and wasn't that broad.  It was very smooth, fun to use, and a perfectly reasonable width for journaling or letter writing.  I loved it!

By the end of the day, we had completely sold out (temporarily), but not before I had bought one of the last ones left.  The pen we had used to write with and make the video was now mine.  

It's not like me to impulsively buy a popular thing, but I never regretted this purchase. The Iridescent Pearl Sport is a fascinating color that reminds me of the inside of an abalone shell. Yes, it's only plastic, but it's very pretty! It's also a tough little pen and I love how lightweight and portable it is. This is a true pocket pen and can be safely stashed just about anywhere.  The screw cap is extremely secure and I never worry about throwing it in my mini backpack or bringing it on a walk through the woods in the rain.  

Once posted, the length is very comfortable, and I love how it looks in my hand.  I think it's most beautiful on a cloudy day and at night, when the iridescence gleams with a soft luminosity like moonlight.  

Although this is an inexpensive pen, it has behaved perfectly for me, and the nib unit also cleans very quickly.  (I use a bulb syringe like you can buy in the baby aisle at a drugstore.)  You can get a mini converter that fits the Kaweco Sport, or use standard international short cartridges.  Super easy!

It took me a while to find the ideal ink for my Iridescent Pearl Sport.  I kept seeing people online using pale multichromatic inks like Sailor Manyo Haha and Nekoyanagi. The colors do match well, as the material of the pen reflects shades of pale blue, silver, and violet, but I wanted something a little darker and easier to read. The double broad nib allowed me to experiment with a lot of shading and shimmer inks, and I used the pen in several blog articles, like the one I wrote about the new Sailor Yurameku inks, and Nuts About Notebooks.

Finally I tired Diamine Enchanted Ocean, and now I never want to take it out of this pen! At first I was worried that the shimmer would clog the nib, but it's been about three months since I filled the pen, and, every time I pick it up, the ink flows beautifully and is a joy to use. Sometimes I scribble with it when I'm too tired to do anything else, just because it feels so nice and is so fun to look at. It can show all three Ss--shading, shimmer, and sheen--and I love seeing how it appears on different kinds of paper.  The color has darkened a little over time, but the fact that it is still writing so well without cleaning is a testament to both the ink and this pen's good seal.  I wish some of my expensive pens were this reliable!  The pen and ink look perfect together, don't you agree?

Here's my swatch of Enchanted Ocean.  Dreamy! 

 (Yeah, this ink is petrol-colored, too. I told you I'm obsessed.)

The Kaweco Sport fountain pen comes in a seemingly endless range of colors, with current prices ranging from $25 for the simple and study plastic-bodied pens to $80-$100 for the different metal versions in aluminum and brass (if you love heavy pens, the brass one's for you!). My favorite metal one is Vibrant Violet--the color is gorgeous!  You can also choose the extremely beautiful Turned Italian Acrylic Coral Red finish Art Sport for $225, and I would love to own that pen.  If you prefer a different writing instrument, the Sport is also available as a ballpointrollerball, and pencil, all in a pretty huge array of color choices as well! And if you want to be able to attach your Sport to your pocket, bag, or notebook, you can add a slide-on clip in silver or gold for only $3, or a slightly fancier deluxe version of the clip (chrome, gold, raw bronze, or black) for a few dollars more.

All those options are pretty tempting, but for now I'm happy with my cute little double broad Iridescent Pearl Sport fountain pen, and I highly recommend it.  So do several of my colleagues.  After I bought mine, I later found out that three other people at Pen Boutique had done the same!  I guess there's something irresistible about it.


Lamy Safari with Lamy Cursive Nib

The next pen is another one I actually own, but not because I bought it.  In fact, I never thought I wanted a Lamy Safari.  I know, I know... Safaris are very popular and people love them!  But my first fountain pen was a Pilot Metropolitan and I felt like there were two pretty classic choices for introductory pen:  Metropolitan or Safari. After my Metropolitan, I continued down a path with gold-nibbed Pilots and other pens that appealed to me aesthetically. I always thought Safaris were a bit weird looking, with their paperclip-ish clips and utilitarian plastic bodies.

But, sometimes we get pens we wouldn't have chosen for ourselves, and find out they're actually great! That's what happened with my Lamy Safari, a pen Leena decided to give everyone who works at Pen Boutique so we could all experience owning a fountain pen. Of course, I loved fountain pens way before I started working at Pen Boutique, but some of our newer staff hadn't been introduced to the joys of using a fountain pen yet.

When I got my Safari, at first I rather snobbishly thought, "What am I going to do with this?" The model Leena had picked for everyone was the special edition white version with a red clip, so that was kind of interesting, but, still... did I really want another cheap pen? Entry-level fountain pens are a lot of fun, but I felt like my collection had enough already.  Then I realized:  I could swap the standard nib for a cursive nib! It's $23 extra, but would completely transform the pen.  I was excited!

I had become completely obsessed with Lamy's cursive nib when I wrote a blog article about it back in April, and I really wanted one, but I didn't own any Lamy pens to put it in.  Now I had a free Lamy, so who cares what it looked like!  When I brought my new Safari home that evening, my opinion had already started to sway. I looked at the pen lying on my dresser and decided it reminded me of a vampire, with its stark white body, bright red trim, and new jet-black nib. It was cool in a strange way.

I decided to affectionately name my new pen Udo, after German actor Udo Kier. (After all, like all the pens I'm featuring this week, Lamys are German.). When I inked up Udo with Diamine Solstice using the converter I had bought for an extra $6, I immediately loved it. I scribbled with the pen a little to try it out, and it was so smooth and so much fun! 

The wet cursive nib showed off the subtle elegance of the rich black ink with its mysterious and decadent-looking green shimmer. It was perfect.  I've tried a few other inks in my Safari, and all have behaved well so far, but Udo's favorites have been Solstice, Colorverse Dan Hong (a deep red with copper sheen), and Colorverse Shiny Black.  All the shimmer inks I've tried have flowed smoothly and looked great, so I can definitely endorse the cursive nib if you like to experiment with shimmer inks.

Because the Safari is inexpensive, tough, and fun-loving, I like to toss it in my mini-backpack and take it with me for adventures, like up on the Ferris Wheel at the Labor Day Festival, and to concerts to scribble down playlists.

The nib is so versatile and pleasurable to use. You can write very small if you hold the pen upright at a 90 degree angle, get a medium-fine line at a more natural 45 degree angle, or produce a wide line when you twist it to the side, a position that most fountain pens hate. There is also is a subtle difference between the vertical and horizontal strokes, with a 0.25mm line width downstroke and a 0.35mm width horizontal line, so the line width variance runs the opposite direction from the line variation you get from a stub or cursive italic nib, which have a wider downstroke and narrow side stroke. In this aspect, it's most similar to what is known as an architect nib, which is designed for the sharp, straight lines used by an architect writing on a blueprint. But, unlike an architect, stub, or italic nib, the Lamy cursive nib works great for curves as well as for both vertical and horizontal lines. It feels smooth no matter what you do!

There is no frustrating struggle to find the cursive nib's "sweet spot."  Its unique shape with very pointy tip and sharply cut in sides allows it to maintain contact with the paper at all sorts of extreme angles and when turned sharply.  This means you can write or draw however you want. It feels freeing and expansive, fun and wild! 

Not everyone picks up on why this nib is so great... I've had various reactions when showing it to customers in the store.  Some people instantly love it and want to upgrade their pen immediately, while others shrug.  They don't get it and can't tell the difference between the cursive nib and a standard one.  This always surprises me, because to me it's so obvious, but maybe they have a different way of holding their pen, or a more careful writing style that doesn't benefit from the spontaneity the cursive nib allows and encourages.

I've found that left handers often really appreciate this nib, as some hold their pens at unusual angles, and it's also a hit with artists who love how it unlocks their creativity.  Plus, of course, it feels and looks wonderful for writing cursive, hanzi, kanji, kana, heiti, mingti, Sanskrit, Hangul and Arabic scripts.  It's designed with running script in mind--the kind used in Chinese writing--but any penmanship that is written in a flowing manner can benefit from the unique shape of this nib. Whatever language you use, when you are writing quickly and infrequently lifting the pen, this nib feels amazing! 

Because I love my cursive nib so much, I've grown to appreciate the Lamy Safari for lots of other reasons, too.  The contoured tripod grip, which instructs you on the best position to hold a fountain pen, is very comfortable for me, and I love the feather-light weight of this pen. People who hold their pens at unusual angles, like lefties, can be annoyed by this grip, but for me it's nice. And some people hate light pens and think the Safari feels cheap.  It does feel plastic-y and a little cheap, but not low quality.  It's made primarily from very strong ABS plastic, is well-constructed and well designed. The ink window is nice, the converter (sold separately) works great, and it's easy to switch out the nibs if you want to experiment with different ones.  You can buy the nibs separately in stainless steel (extra fine, fine, medium, broad, and left handed), black steel (same sizes), calligraphy (1.1mm, 1.5mm, or 1.9mm stub), and, of course, my favorite--cursive

I still think the clip is weird, but it's very sturdy and utilitarian, and that's what the Safari does best. This pen is casual, reliable, a bit whimsical, avant-garde and cool in a quirky way. It comes in a myriad of interesting colors, and has a slightly larger and more upscale aluminum brother, the AL-Star.  It's been a classic since the 1980s. I don't think I'll ever find it beautiful, but I do like it and think it's a great pen for both fountain pen newbies and experienced users who want to have fun and experiment without spending a lot of money. Why not?

Otto Hutt Design 06 in Arctic Blue

My final pen this week is not one that I own, but I would love to. I've been a fan of the Otto Hutt Design 06 pens since I wrote about them back in February for my blog article, Otto Hutt - For Individualists With Style. It was an article I was particularly excited to write because Otto Hutt is one of my favorite brands and it's not very well known in the United States, so I always take great pleasure in introducing it to customers and telling them why it's special. Maybe this is a little silly, but whenever a customer decides to choose an Otto Hutt pen, I get a small thrill of delight and triumph because I feel a personal connection to it.

I first discovered Otto Hutt in 2019 when I came across an article about one of the Design 04 pens.  I fell in love and couldn't stop thinking about it. I could hardly find any reviews of it or references to it in online pen forums, but the reviews that I did see talked about the incredible craftsmanship of this brand, which was founded in Pforzheim, Germany in 1920 and has maintained its original Bauhaus aesthetic and jewelry-makers' precision. Pforzheim is a gateway to the famous Black Forest, and has been known as "Goldstadt" ("Golden City") since the 1700s because of its international reputation for manufacturing jewelry, watches, and useful household objects made from gold and silver. Even to this day, about 80% of the jewelry exported from Germany comes from Pforzheim.

The combination of Bauhaus influence, meticulous craftsmanship, and a jeweler's eye for fine detail is very evident when you examine an Otto Hutt pen, and I still remember how intrigued I was when I first read about the brand's history and looked at photos of its lineup.  I later found out that they have made their pens in-house for over 100 years, and actually make entire brands for other brands! They are extremely respected in the fine pen world, and most major brands with pens over $500 have worked with Otto Hutt for parts.  

I decided I wanted the Floral Creme Design 04 fountain pen for Christmas that year, but I couldn't find any US pen stores that carried it, so I ordered it from a place in Sweden and waited patiently for it to arrive.  When I opened it on Christmas morning, I was blown away by the construction. Everything about it felt solid, sturdy, and perfect in its precision and functionality. Every time I used the pen, I enjoyed its unique look and exceptional quality. I wondered why Otto Hutt wasn't more popular, but the fact that most American pen enthusiasts are unaware of Otto Hutt is part of why I love the brand so much. I love being a little different, so its relative obscurity really appeals to me.

My Otto Hutt is one of my favorite pens in my collection, so I've kept a close eye on this brand and was extremely pleased when I started working at Pen Boutique last fall and saw our Otto Hutt display case. We currently carry five of their lines--Design 04, Design C, Design 07, Design 08, and Design 06, as well as their complete lineup of inks.  They all reflect the Bauhaus influence, masterful use of fine metal including gold, platinum, and silver, and small design elements that hallmark Otto Hutt's attention to detail. Each pen has a unique six-digit code engraved on the cap and noted in the warranty card, and the fountain pens feature the beautiful and incredibly smooth Otto Hutt nib, made by JoWo specifically for them.

(Photo shows my own Design 04 pen and a White Wave Design 04 from Pen Boutique.) 

When I got to bring home the Design 06 pens for my blog article, I loved them right away.  They look very different from my Design 04, but equally as attractive. The shapes are a little more curvy and organic than the other more rectilinear Otto Hutt pens, but I feel like they are extremely androgynous in character, especially when capped. They look very modern, almost futuristic.

I was very happy with all three of the Design 06 pens--fountain, rollerball, and ballpoint--as well as all four colors:  Ash Grey, Ruby Red, Arctic Blue, and Seashell Pink. They all have a sophisticated and slightly industrial feel that I love... even the pink looks cool and astute. I especially like how the metal trim thoughtfully complements each color. The icy Arctic Blue pen's trim is silvery platinum plated, the Ruby Red is a warm gold plate, the Ash Grey's trim is a steely grey PVD, and the soft Seashell Pink has rose gold plating. 

The fountain pens particularly stood out to me because their nibs are so exceptional, but I couldn't choose a favorite color back in February.  When I looked into the display cabinet eight months later to select a pen for this article, I again had trouble deciding, but after a moment I focused in on Arctic Blue.  The reserved but friendly color suits my personality. I like that it's an unusual shade of blue, different from any of the other pens in our store, and that the texture makes it look frosty like a January morning. It seems both introspective and happy.  

The sandblasted feel of Design 06 is very satisfying and is a pleasure to hold. It's milled with special diamond tools. I love the way the texture plays with the light, and how easy it is to get a grip on. Form follows function! The body and cap are made from solid aluminum, finished with a lacquer coat, so the pen is lighter than it looks, and very strong. These pens do definitely feel metallic and substantial, but are well balanced both posted and unposted, so both options are good, depending on your weight preferences and the size of your hand.

Every Otto Hutt nib I've ever sampled has been a delight, but I actually prefer Otto Hutt's steel nibs to the 18K gold versions that are available on some of their pens. Their steel nib has a bouncy gold nib feel, and even offers a little line width variation. It's extremely smooth and quite wet, but also feels precise and has a little bit of "tooth."  The feel is different than any of my other pens, and I really like it!  The gold nib option is softer and wetter, so I write with less control when I use it, and my handwriting and drawing is messier. We offer the Design 06 pens with the steel nib, and they are currently on sale. For what you are getting, the price is a bargain. 

I love using sheening inks like Waterman Harmonious GreenDiamine Majestic Blue, and Diamine Sargasso Sea in these pens.  I tried two of the sheening inks from the new 2022 Diamine Inkvent calendar in the Design 06 I borrowed for this article!  (They are pictured in the writing samples just above.) I don't want to spoil the Inkvent calendar surprises for you by telling you which ones they are, but they looked and felt amazing.

I'm happy with my Otto Design 04, but if I were to buy a second Otto Hutt it would definitely be the Design 06. I love this pen's sensuality, its clean graceful lines and solid feel, the contrast in its textures, the balanced weight and comfortable flared grip. Most of all, it's just so pleasing to me visually. What a beautiful design.

What's Next...?

This week turned out to be "German Week," but next week is going to be very different. My final picks don't have much in common except that they are all extraordinary writers that captured my heart. See you next time for Part Three!

-Laura P.

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