Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Father's Day is Fast Approaching!

Father's Day 2021 Gift List

     Father's Day is coming up pretty soon and you don't want to be caught out without a gift but your in luck because this list will go over some ideas to give your father the gift of writing this year! Whether it's a pen or something to go with it like paper or ink, we've got you covered. Please keep in mind that this list is in no way a definitive gift list and that the items are in no particular order, Pen Boutique carries a lot more than what is mentioned on this list so treat this as more of a starting point and check out our website for more options. I will be showcasing 6 different pens, 2 roller, 2 ballpoint and 2 fountain, and then go over a couple of ink and paper options as well so without further ado let's get into the list starting with the pens.

Fountain Pens

  • Pelikan M1000 Green Stripe- Pelikan's flagship model of their Souverän line is one of the best flagship pen models offered from any modern brand and just happens to be my favorite as well because it has a spectacular nib. The M1000 has an eye catching design that is classic but still has a bit of an interesting look which is pretty difficult to pull off, the clip is shaped like a Pelican's bill and the body has an interesting striped design that allows the user to see the ink level when the pen is held up to light. The green and gold color combination is also one that feels very regal and elegant and would be a fantastic addition to any shirt pocket or pen case! The M1000 is a piston filler which means that it has a larger ink capacity but can only be used with bottled inks which is something to keep in mind. The nib is comparable to the larger #8 size and lays down a rather thick and wet line which feels excellent but if you don't prefer a thick line I would definitely recommend going down one from your regularly preferred size. The Pelikan M1000 can be purchased from Pen Boutique for $832 and with this you get a fantastic luxury pen that is one of the best performing in it's price bracket!
  • Pilot Custom 823- My other favorite pen to recommend as a gift is this beautiful Vac filler, the Pilot Custom 823, which is one of Pilot's most cost effective pens and one of the best value pens in the whole hobby. This is another pen that doesn't stray too far from the classic look but also has a bit of an interesting design feature in that it is a massive demonstrator. The pen comes in the above amber smoke and a regular smoke that is more of a translucent grey color but both allow you to keep an eye out for your ink level before leaving the house which means you won't be caught out with an empty pen. Another nice aspect about this pen is that it comes in a very nice looking gift box and also includes a bottle of Pilot blue ink with your purchase so you can get writing immediately after opening the box. This pen is also an ink bottle only pen because it is a vacuum filler which allows for one of the biggest ink capacities outside of eyedropper and if you get a full fill the whole barrel can actually fill with ink which also adds a little weight to the relatively light pen. The Custom 823 can be purchased from Pen Boutique for $288 and for this price you get a fantastic gold nib pen with a huge ink capacity and a bottle of ink!

Rollerball Pens

  • S T Dupont Line D Firehead Guilloche- ST Dupont is no stranger to making luxury, eye catching pens and the firehead guilloche is no stranger to this with it's vibrant colors and meticulous guilloche work that is sealed with Urushi lacquer. The line D is also a substantial feeling pen coming in at around 64g but the ergonomic grip with ridges is sure to provide a good grip for comfortable writing sessions of any length. The snap cap design makes it a good option for quick notes as well because you don't have to spend a long time uncapping the pens like some other more expensive rollerballs. I mentioned a little earlier that this pen was coated in Urushi lacquer which is the hardest naturally occurring lacquer in the world, it is also fairly difficult to work with but is the only way for the guilloche to truly pop and stand out on this pen. Available in the amber color pictured above as well as an emerald green and amethyst purple, the firehead guilloche has a color for everyone for a variety of settings whether its an office or more causal setting. The Line D can be purchased from Pen Boutique for $700 and for this you get a hefty luxury pen that makes even the quickest note fun to write, check it out online or stop by to check it out in person!
  • Diplomat Aero- If you are looking for something that's a bit more unique in terms of design look no further because the Diplomat Aero is quite the piece of modern design. Manufactured from Aluminum and then either anodized or flame treated like the one above, the Aero is a very solid feeling pen and similarly to the Line D the cap is a snap cap which allows for easy and quick removal for notes. The grooves on the pen are not actually only for design but also remove weight from the pen without augmenting the overall shape too much, without these grooves the pen would be to slippery and heavy to use really well. The flame treatment is hand done which means each pen will be unique which is why I really enjoy the heat treatment above the anodized colors. The Aero can be purchased from Pen Boutique in 12 different colors for the price of $156 for the anodized models and $292 for the flame treated.

Ballpoint Pens

  • Visconti Homo Sapiens- The Homo sapiens is truly a unique pen and nobody really does it quite like Visconti because the materials in this pen are top notch along with the build quality which together make this pen a powerhouse for long and stylish writing sessions. This pen is actually made from lava rock taken from the Mt. Etna volcano in Italy which really reminds you of the brand's heritage along with the unique clip shape which is an homage to the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, the brand's birthplace. All the trim on this pen is brass which means that it will take on more personality the more you use it which is the same for the slightly hydroscopic lava material on the barrel of the pen. This is a twist action ballpoint which makes notes quick so it really is a perfect companion for everyday use. It is available with black and red trim but the lava can also be purchased in a red, sand or white color to add a pop of color. The Homo sapiens ballpoint can be purchased from Pen Boutique in six different colors for between $340-$380.
  • Lamy 2000- Inspired by the Bauhaus design principles, the Lamy 2000 is an exceptional example of when excellent function comes from a sleek and minimal design without unnecessary frills or things to take away from the use of the object, in this case it would be writing. The original model was made from Makralon, a form of plastic that is reinforced with fiber glass, the pen can also be purchased in stainless steel or even wood to suit any preference. Don't let the minimalist design fool you, this pen is one of the best performing in its price bracket and if cared for correctly, will last years to come. All of Lamy's pens are made in Germany which contributes to the exceptional build quality and feel of these pens so when you buy the 2000 you are buying a piece of German engineering! The Lamy 2000 can be purchased in all the materials above from Pen Boutique and the price ranges based on which finish you decide on buying. The base Makralon model can be purchased for $62.40, $199.20 for the stainless steel, $103.20 for the wood, and $79.20 for the multi pen.

Ink Bottles

  • Sailor- My personal favorite inks all come from Sailor and that's because most of the time when you buy a Sailor ink you are not only buying one color of ink but buying a color of ink that shades or sheens into a variety of other complimentary colors to make for a really stunning page of writing. Inside of the Sailor brand the Manyo line and their Ink Studio line are the ones that I find have the most character and shading, especially when used on a less absorbent paper like Tomoe River. The ink pictured above is Sailor Manyo Haha which is a great example of an ink with extreme color variance from purple to blue to green which is really amazing and changes the ink depending on what nib size you use it with! The Ink Studio line has around 100 colors, each one is unique and stands on it's own while the Manyo line has far fewer but still ones that hold their own against other similarly colored inks. The Manyo line will run you around $21.60 for a 50ml bottle and the Ink Studio will run you a little more per ml at $18.00 for a 20ml bottle but in my opinion you really can't go wrong with any Sailor made ink.
  • Diamine- With over 150 inks on offer Diamine is sure to have something for everyone and their inks behave exceptionally well, the price point and volume of their bottles also makes them the best bang for your buck in my personal opinion. Most of their standard line comes in an 80ml bottle but should also be available in 30ml if you just wanted to try a color out or split it with a friend or something like that. They also have a range of reasonably priced shimmer inks that don't really have too much of a clogging problem which is nice to see with a shimmer ink because the last thing you want is to ink your pen with your new ink and then have it clog on you mid writing session. They also have a very nice line of holiday themed inks that can be used year round, pictured above is candy cane which is a nice red that has just a little bit of a dusty look when dried. The standard 80ml Diamine bottles will run you about $15 from us here at Pen Boutique with the shimmer and special editions being a little bit more.

Paper

  • Montblanc- You may have seen their writing instruments but their notebooks are works of art as well, Montblanc makes some of the coolest looking themed notebooks available here at PB and the quality is top notch. Each notebook comes installed with a cloth bookmark to keep track of your place when picking up the book to write again or keep track of a page previously written on. The covers are made from high quality leather and can come with a theme like the homage to Moctezuma which is pictured above but are also available in solid colors for a more toned down and classic look. The paper performs well and the nature of this notebook makes me tend to recommend it for special things like a wedding book or a journal dedicated to one subject in particular because at this point it is more than a notebook. Another great aspect is that they are available in a wide variety of sizes for different uses, from taking quick notes to things that take larger pages like maybe a presentation plan or something like that. These are luxury products and they come at luxury prices, the Montblanc notebooks at Pen Boutique can be purchased for prices between $45-$150 depending on size and edition.


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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Sleek & Elegant designs shipped in from Germany

 Otto Hutt Design 7, A Closer Look

Specs:

  • Description- A hefty Sterling Silver pen that harkens back to classic German design but with a modern feel.
  • Nib- 18k gold (EF-B)
  • Material- Sterling Silver (also available with lacquer over the SS)
  • Filling Mechanism- Cartridge or Converter
  • Weight- 65 grams capped
  • Measurements- 5.5 cm capped
  • Ink Capacity- 1ml converter

History & Origin

    Founded in 1920 by Karl Hutt, the brand was originally focused on making Sterling Silver writing instruments which still rings true today, he only had 20 employees in the beginning but this didn't stop the growth of the brand. By 1962 the brand had eclipsed their old manufacturing plant and decided to move into a bigger facility in Pforzheim, Germany which its where the pens are still being produced to this day. When Karl could no longer run the company his son, Otto, became the head and the brand still bears his name to remind of the family beginnings of the business. 
    In 2006 the brand was relaunched under the new owners and is now being run by Marco Frei. Similar to some aspects of Lamy's design philosophy, Karl Hutt was an adamant follower of the Bauhaus school of design and decided to make pens that stood on their own with respect to quality of writing and function first but also looked timeless and unique. The Design 07 is the brand's flagship and its for this reason that I'm choosing to highlight it here today so without further ado, lets take a look at the packaging and design of the pen.

Appearance & Packaging

    The pen comes in what appears to be a regular box contained in a silver slip cover but when you open the box you are immediately reminded of the brand's Bauhaus design inspiration because you are met with only the pen surrounded by black cardboard. I think that it may have been nice to see some sort of softer material and the pen have a more snug fit but I don't fear that the pen will be damaged or anything like that while in transit. When you lift up the cardboard insert that the pen is housed in you are met with a variety of branded necessities to get you writing immediately out of the box. 
They included a pack of cartridges with black ink, a standard international converter for if you want to use bottled ink, the use/care guide along with the warranty information and a nice pen sleeve to protect your pen when it's not in use. As far as the actual pen goes, each Otto Hutt writing instrument is serialized similar to Montblanc in order to stop fakes and keep track of lost or stolen pens which always gives peace of mind when making a decision to buy. This pen is made with a solid sterling silver construction and OH says that the pen has 36g of silver in each pen and with the sufficient heft of this pen I have no trouble believing them. I really enjoy the stripping on the cap and barrel because it feels very well done and isn't so extreme that it's distracting during a writing session. 
Another one of my favorite aspects is that the silver Hallmarks are designed to line up in one of the cap orientations which really shows the brands attention to detail and reassures me that they've gotten everything else correct. The pen is equipped with a really nice feeling spring loaded clip that isn't too firm and won't get worn out with continued usage. The cap band sports the brand name along with Germany and the unique serial number for the individual pen. Enough of the packaging, lets see how it actually writes!

Nib & Performance

    The Otto Hutt Design 07 features a #6 sized Jowo compatible nib in 18k gold and on this model it is two toned which I really enjoy the look of on this all silver pen. You can get the nib in your choice of EF-B and since the nib is in a Jowo housing, you could even switch it into other pens that are Jowo compatible. As far as the writing, it is very smooth with just a hint of what I like to call "good feedback" and that just means that you can feel the writing as opposed to it just being silky smooth gliding across the paper and I personally prefer a little feedback so I really enjoyed writing with this pen. 
    The body is big enough to store an extra short international cartridge behind the one in use or you could use a converter for ink bottle fill. With all the silver and metal in this pen it would be inadvisable to eye dropper fill. The section of the pen has a lip to also keep your fingers from slipping off and onto the nib during writing sessions and I found that due to this feature, even with the kind of heavy nature of this pen, I wasn't experiencing hand cramping or anything like that even after a longer writing session. Alright now lets take a look at what I like and dislike about the pen and then talk price.

Pros

  • very solid construction
  • cool minimal design
  • 18k gold nib that's also removable easily
  • each pen has a serial number
  • sterling silver
  • a lot of thought was put into the design and it was executed very well

Cons

  • nib is on the smaller side of most flagships which have #8 nibs
  • no option for piston fill
  • may be a little too heavy for some
  • fingerprint magnet

Final Thoughts & Price

    Overall I think that this pen is a great value for the price, you are essentially getting a chunk of sterling silver that has been shaped into a luxury writing instrument and luxurious it is! The Otto Hutt is not an oversized pen but is a thick pen and the weight really helps it feel solid and well built. The nibs are also very well tuned out of the box and have good ink flow so you just get a very nice quality silver pen that is a great example of Bauhaus design principals. The pen can be purchased from Pen Boutique for the price of $796, $636 for rollerball and $340 for ballpoint, feel free to ask us any questions you may have in the comments section or stop by and take a look in person!
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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Fountain Pen Q&A Part #1

 Frequently Asked Fountain Pen Questions

    We get a lot of questions about fountain pens simply because they are less common and a little more complicated than ball-points and rollerballs and this blog is meant to address those lingering questions and give you a better knowledge of how to care for your pens. I have written a couple blogs already aimed at people who are just getting into the hobby so this will be a less in depth look at some other questions rather than focusing only on the beginner topics. 

What are the differences in material other than plastic?

    Fountain pens come in a variety of materials based upon older models because pens were around before the creation of modern plastic and some brands like to either pay homage to these vintage pens or just like the unique materials. The other popular materials outside of modern plastics are ebonite and celluloid, both of which can be seen in a variety of vintage asian and western pen models. Both of these materials are a little more fragile and need a little extra care than plastic pens because the material itself is prone to things like discoloration and warping over time or in the case of celluloid it can start to deteriorate if not cared for correctly.
Celluloid- This is a highly sought after material that can offer some great color combinations and depth due to each rod being unique from the next but it is significantly more difficult to find which makes the cost a little higher. Part of the reason its so elusive is because it's significantly more difficult to make with some variations like Arco being completely outlawed due to the combustible manufacturing process. The material itself is considered a plastic but one that is made out of layers of Camphor. When using a celluloid pen it is very important to make sure that your hands are free of anything like soap or lotion and that they are dry to prolong the body of your pen and ensure it stays free of warped spots. You also should never use any sort of alcohol based cleaner on these pens as that will do nothing but speed up the process of the surface material breaking down. To avoid discoloration of the material it's important to keep to away from UV light when not in use so keeping it on a desk for a long period of time isn't recommended. Now it is almost impossible to avoid some very slight discoloration with prolonged use but by taking these steps you will prolong the lifespan of any celluloid pen in your collection. With that being said, if you buy a vintage celluloid pen that has already started showing signs of discoloration or surface wear it is almost impossible to reverse these things and the only thing that can usually be fixed aesthetically is the clip plating. 
Ebonite- This material was actually being used before celluloid and is a form of harden rubber that they used for a bunch of other products like bowling balls and lining for storage containers. The material really feels like no other and is often described as being softer than plastics and warm to the touch, to be clear, I don't mean that they are so soft they bend or anything but the surface is just a little less dense than plastic. The look of ebonite is something that can change pretty drastically from just a plain black to various colors but one of the most classic combinations is the black and red of the Waterman 52 you see above. A good example of jet black ebonite would be Sailor's King of Pen which also happens to be one of their most popular KOP finishes. It's important to keep ebonite out of the sun and direct sunlight to avoid color fading but just like with celluloid, a little bit of fading is ultimately inevitable. Another problem is that ebonite can react with different chemicals so best to use these with clean lotion-free hands as well, there was an instance of older Parker Duofold changing color because the ink sack on the inside was off gassing sulfur, leading to a lot of discoloration which is why its quite rare to find a very bright vintage duo fold in the vintage market now.

What is Urushi Lacquer?

    When getting into higher price Japanese pens you will often hear the term Urushi thrown around but it can be kind of hard to understand the significance unless you see them in person but I'll try my best to explain the wonderful nature of this material. Urushi is actually concentrated sap from a poisonous tree in Japan that can only be harvested for so much lacquer making it pretty expensive for the raw material cost alone and then it has to be applied to the pen by an artisan that has usually dedicated their whole life to the sole purpose of painting with Urushi. The nature of the material means that artisans have to be extremely careful when applying it if they are allergic to poison ivy because one drop could land a very allergic person in the hospital, the material also takes quite a while to dry which means that pens often have a 3 month minimum production time depending on the details in the pen. Once it dries, Urushi is considered the hardest naturally occurring lacquer which makes it a good option to seal Han painted Maki-e designs with so they don't rub off with continued use. They can also provide very bright colors which is amazing in the case of the Pilot Custom 845 in the Vermilion color. 

What pens can be eyedropper filled 

    A lot of pens can be converted to eyedropper fill but aren't necessarily advertised for it so sometimes people don't always realize that they could be getting a lot more ink capacity from their pens. Eye dropper fills allow you to use the whole barrel as the ink reservoir instead of being limited to just a cartridge or converter. The only pens that can be eyedroppered are ones that take a converter or cartridge because piston filling systems usually can not be removed but this isn't the only qualifier to make sure your pen can be eyedropper filled. There has to be absolutely no metal pieces in the barrel of the pen were ink would touch because this can have a corrosive effect on the metal and irreversible damage or destroy your pens. You also don't want to do it with any sensitive materials like celluloid and while ebonite is usually ok its always best to heir on the side of caution when getting into more expensive pens. There is one last step to ensure that your pen can be safely eye dropper filled and that is to apply pen safe silicone grease to the threads that hold the nib in and the threads where the section and body connect so that ink can't leak out of the cracks there. It can be a little daunting at first but you will soon find out that eye dropper filling pens is really worth it in the long run if you plan on using the pen for longer writing sessions. 

Why use a fountain pen over a ballpoint or rollerball?

    This question is highly subjective but I do get it pretty often so I guess I'll talk about why I use fountain pens and why they've trumped the roller and ball point when I write for myself. The short answer is that they are a lot more customizable and fun than the other two options (again, this is all my opinion) because you can choose your nib size, ink, even the paper changes the characteristics of a pen. Fountain pens also become deeply personal objects the more you write with them, they come in a variety of different nib sizes to fit any writing style and also give your writing a bit more character which is something that can't really be achieved with ballpoints or rollerballs. Yes, its true that BP and RB write and achieve the purpose of a fountain pen in a more convenient way but fountain pens aren't all about convenience and instead, offer a much more personalized writing experience that I feel connects with me more and actually makes me want to write more. 

Feel Free to submit more questions to us and we'd be happy to answer them!

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Friday, May 28, 2021

What nib is write for you?

 A Comprehensive Guide to FP Nibs

    Possibly one of the hardest decisions about writing with fountain pens is what nib to buy and what the difference is between sizes, materials and compatibility between models, hopefully by the end of this blog post you'll be ready to pick the best nib to fit your needs. We will be taking a closer look at the sizes of the tipping on the nibs, the sizes of the actual nibs, the materials that they are made of, and the compatibility of these nibs between different pen models and brands. 

Nib Sizes for line width

    I'm going to talk mostly about what can be purchased from brands in the retail setting mostly so I won't really touch on custom nib grinds in depth. Most brands offer a standard range of sizes but before we get to those lets talk about the general difference between Japanese and western sizes. A general rule of thumb is that Japanese nibs are one size finer than western nibs and I can say this is definitely true for Sailor and Pilot but since it is highly personal what people prefer, just take that rule with a grain of salt.
  • Extra Fine- The finest nib size available from most brands is the EF and is great for fine margin note taking. I would suggest not using any shimmer or waterproof ink in an EF because the large particles in the ink are more likely to clog the small EF opening which can be frustrating to deal with. Since EF nibs also have less tipping material to make the line thinner they are more likely to have some feedback where you can feel the nib on the paper and is less likely to be glassy smooth like a Broad can be. EF nibs also tend to have very crisp lines and make the ink your using look pretty monochromatic which can improve legibility when used with some hyper-shading inks.

  • Fine- The next step up is the F nib which is a little more generous and usually are a little more smooth than the EF but can still be really fine depending on the brand you buy from. This and the Medium nib are usually where I would tell people to start because they are the middle of the road and can show you what your pens can do and I see the EF and B nibs as amplifying this to an extreme level. Fine nibs are also really good for note taking because the smaller the nib the more writing and notes you can get into a smaller space so I'd suggest EF and F for note taking the most because they also preform better on cheaper paper like the ones used in schools and offices because they put down less ink.

  • Medium- The true middle of the road nib is the medium and I think its also the most common nib that companies offer the most of usually because it is so popular. This is also where nibs can start to get super smooth and juicy, laying down a moderate amount of ink to get a bit more shading and character out of your inks, I would also recommend M or higher when using shimmer or permanent inks because it won't clog as easily. Medium nibs are really all around writers that are in such a size that they are pretty good for everything, some may be a little too wet to use on bad quality paper but they are great for journaling and writing on higher quality paper stock. I'd suggest Medium nibs as the best nibs for people getting their first fountain pen because you will have an idea of a starting point that you can either go down or up from.

  • Broad- My personal favorite is the broad nib which put down a really fat line and provided the best character and shading from your inks, especially when paired with Tomoe River paper. These are also usually the smoothest nibs because they have the largest amount of material on the tip to provide a thicker line. A downside to B nibs is that they can take a while to dry on the page which means they aren't the best for quick notes due to the smudge factor but when doing something like journaling where there is no rush and can air dry for a little bit they perform great. When I first got into pens I started on the opposite end of the spectrum with the finer nibs but have since grown to really love the broader nibs and once you see how well the ink looks coming from a B nib I guarantee you'll add at least one to your collection.

  • Stub- The last of the readily available nibs from most brands is the stub nib which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The nib tip is more squared off than the B nib and offers a similar thickness but with a varying line width depending on if you write straight down or if you write to the side. Stubs can be made a few different ways with some of the lower priced ones not having any tipping at all and just having the actual nib touch the paper, the other way is just like any other nib where there's a squared amount of tipping material to give it the stub shape. The varying widths make these a popular starting point for calligraphy practice or if you like your casual writing to have quite a bit of character and varying widths but are a little less common than the other sizes we've talked about so far.

Sizes of the actual nibs themselves

    This may be a little confusing based on what we just talked about but the sizes in this section refer to the actual size of the whole nib and not the line width that they put out. Different brands have different sizes but for this I'll be using the Jowo and Bock nib brands because they are the most common nib makers for brands that don't choose to make their own nibs. 
  • #5- The smallest size nib offered from Bock and Jowo is the #5 which can be seen on smaller pens like the Kaweco sport models or new Esterbrook J and is just a smaller sized nib. This doesn't really affect the quality of writing but I do find that its less common to find a pen that has a #5 nib made of gold for some reason. Generally speaking, the #5 nib is going to be on smaller pens and is usually an option between those two pens, an example of that would be with Sailor. Although they make their own nibs, Sailor offers two sizes on both their 1911 and Proper models with the small one having a #5 size nib and a #6 on the bigger.
  • #6- The most common nib size that you'll see on most modern pens is the #6 which is sort of thought of as the standard size where the #5 is small and the #8 is big. #6 nibs are kind of like the M nib where it offers a good starting point to see what you like because you can either go down or up depending on preference. This is the size that is featured on most mid to normal sized pens and even on a few oversized pens like the Leonardo MZG where you have a choice between #6 and #8. The good thing about #6 is that since it's a standard size its available in all materials including steel, gold, and titanium and is more than likely to be the size featured on your first fountain pen.
  • #8- Finally we reach the biggest nib size that is pretty much exclusive to oversized pens due to how large it is and how much space is needed to store it in a cap properly. To my knowledge, a #8 steel nib is pretty uncommon and they mostly are offered in either gold or titanium which makes the price of entry a little higher for the #8 size nib. These are often paired with an ebonite feed to keep sufficient ink flow to the large nib and they tend to be quite wet writers, at least all the ones in my collection are. The experience with writing with this size of nib is something that can vary because some people find them unwieldy and prefer the #6 but some people can't get enough of the larger nibs, it really comes down to personal preference.

Nib Material

    The last really big thing to consider when buying a pen or nib is what that nib is made out of because this can have some impact on writing and definitely an impact on price and value. Something else to keep in mind is that most nibs are tipped with some sort of material, usually Iridium, so the material really only affects the flexibility and spring of the nib. The reason for the tipping material is that gold is a little too soft to write with directly and steel is the opposite and may be too hard and scratchy to write with untapped in a size like EF or F.
  • Steel- The most common material used in lower cost pens is stainless steel because it is corrosion resistant and thus will not rust or get funky with prolonged use. These nibs are usually paired with a plastic feed which provides the nib with the ink flow it needs to write a reliable line. Steel is pretty stiff and limits the amount of variance you can get out of a nib because you can push the nib to a wider length so usually is you buy a Steel M nib its just going to write a M sized line which is not always the case as you'll see when we get to gold. Steel is the most affordable choice and some steel nibs can write very well especially in wider nib sizes, more likely than not everyones first fountain pen starts with a steel nib. 
  • Gold- Once you start getting into the higher priced pens you will notice a change from steel to gold in the nib material, some steel nibs will have gold plating to make them look god but that's not what we are talking about here. The true gold nibs are made from solid gold in either 14, 18 or 21 karat and can be paired with a plastic, ebonite or in rare cases an aluminum feed. The draw of the gold is that it is softer than steel and will usually be a little more flexible which allows for more line variation and expression in your writing. These are usually only on more expensive pens although there are a few reasonably priced gold nib pens that start around the $160 mark. 

Compatibility

    Compatibility is something that can really help out if you don't want to accumulate a bunch of pens in different nibs or if you just want to have extra nibs to switch into a pen. Jowo and Bock are the most commonly used nib manufacturers outside of brands making their own nibs which is nice because any pen that uses a Jowo nib can switch nibs and its the same for Bock. You do still have to account for the size because if I have a pen with a #5 Jowo nib I will have to switch it with another #5 Jowo whether its from a different pen or a spare nib, same for #6. A #6 sized nib can't go into a pen that uses a #5. Other than that it varies from brand to brand so always be cautious when taking nibs out or swapping and make sure that everything matches up before you do it, if you ever have questions feel free to give us a call and we'd be happy to try and help.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Become an Explorer with Aurora's New Collection

 Aurora Ambienti Glacier & Tundra

Specs (same for both colors):

  • Description- Two new special editions from Aurora based on the natural world, similar to the ocean series that they did a little while back.
  • Nib- 18k solid gold with ebonite feed
  • Material- Sterling Silver and Auroloide 
  • Filling Mechanism- Piston
  • Weight- 42g total, 28g body, 14g cap
  • Measurements- 5.1" closed, 6.1" posted
  • Ink Capacity- 1.4ml

History & Origin

    The Aurora pen brand was founded in Turin Italy in the year of 1919 by Isaia Levi and was originally known as "Fabbrica Italiana di Penne a Serbatoio - Aurora " but has since been shortened to Aurora. Despite the current catalog of colorful pen models that the brand has become known for, they originally only produced pens in black but a few years after their founding they began branching out with different colors. In 1929 the brand began to branch out to other European countries which led to an increase in production. A little later during WW2 due to the scarcity of gold, the brand was forced to change to a more economic alloy called Platiridio and a little later into the war the companies factory actually fell victim to a bomb attack which forced them to relocate and start from scratch. 
    However just a few years after the war in 1947, the 88 came out and went on to be one of the brands most well loved models alongside the Optima. Now that we've gotten the history lesson out of the way, let's take a closer look at these two new special editions from Aurora.

Packaging & Appearance

    Aurora has been around for over 100 years and this shows with the care they take when presenting your new pen, in fact, they have one of my favorite pen boxes that just really make it feel like a quality, luxury, writing instrument. The packaging for this special edition is a little different than usual and you'll see that a bottle of matching ink is provided with the pen but on regular editions of Aurora pens, ink is not provided. The box is made of a faux leather material that continues to the inside of the box to keep the pen scratch free in transit along with elastic that keeps the pen and ink in place. But the real star of the show is the pen of course and this one really stands out among Aurora's special editions and sports something rather cool and unique on the sterling silver grip section. 
    The sterling silver sections sport a small engraving that represents an ice glacier on the glacier model or a tree branch on the tundra model which is a really cool feature that sets this apart from their previous special editions like the ocean series which are in the same model but don't have any engravings. I really enjoy all the sterling silver on this pen and how it will tarnish over time and take on some personality, of course you can polish that away if you don't enjoy the look of tarnished silver. 
    The ink window in the Aurora pens is my personal favorite one because it is so crystal clear unlike a lot of ink windows and can reliably show you how much ink you have left. Lets take a closer look at this nib and how it actually writes!

Nib & Performance

    Another great aspect of this pen that sets it apart from the competition in this price bracket is the 18k gold nib featured on this pen along with the specially crafted ebonite feed. Aurora makes all of their nibs in house which is pretty uncommon now with most brands opting for either Jowo or bock but the benefit of making their own nibs is that they can control the exact specifications and quality control that makes the pen that much more special. The other aspect that makes these nibs so special is that they have custom fit ebonite feeds which some people say are superior to the more modern plastic feed because of how they handle ink.
    The ebonite is a more porous rubber material that acts sort of like a sponge so it can saturate with ink a lot better and keep the nib wetter more than plastic would, it is also a more traditional material that is seen on almost all vintage pens. Another nice thing about their ebonite feeds is that it has the nib grade right on the feed so that it doesn't clutter up the nib design and makes the nibs appear a little more uniform which may seem small but its nice to see even the smallest details taken into account. I find that Aurora nibs tend to be on the finer side despite being a European brand and I would suggest following the rules for the Japanese nib sizes and assume that they are actually one size down so an Aurora fine could be considered a western EF.

Pros

  • Great nibs made in house
  • Ebonite feed
  • Sterling silver hardware
  • great filling mechanism and clear ink window
  • cool engravings on the section
  • Great selection of nib options

Cons

  • May be a bit heavy for some people
  • Small limited edition so it will be hard to get in the future

Conclusion

    Aurora is a great brand with a rich history in manufacturing writing instruments for over 100 years and has kept up their attention to detail and quality standard well into the modern era. I'm quite confident that anyone that writes with an Aurora pen will understand why they are considered one of the top Italian pen makers but especially with the Glacier and Tundra special editions which are limited to 580 pieces each worldwide. Both of these pens can be purchased from Pen Boutique in a multitude of nib sizes for the price of $1,165, feel free to check it out on our website or stop by the store to see one in person but act quick because these will go out of stock in a heartbeat!
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Thursday, May 20, 2021

It's Time to Graduate in Style - Top Montblanc Pens to gift for 2021.

Best Montblanc Gifts for your Grad

Introduction & History

    Everyone, whether you are into pens or not, has heard the name Montblanc. It's one of those brands that has ascended the binds of being "just a brand" and is now a deep rooted Icon in not only the pen world but also in what it means to be luxurious. Montblanc has been around since 1906 with their Meisterstuck line being launched in 1924, they quickly rose to international acclaim due to the quality of their writing instruments. Before we get into the list I want to have a quick disclaimer that none of these items are in any specific order and are just in a top 10 list format. I've tried to pick things that leaves something for everyone whether you're into fountain pens, ballpoint or rollerball I firmly believe that anyone who receives something off this list for graduation will be very happy. Starting off the list is the 149 which is by far the most famous Montblanc model and is a contender for the most famous and internationally well known pen in general.

Montblanc 149

    Often referred to as the "diplomat" the 149 has been in the hands of some of the worlds most important leaders and entertainers which has resulted in its legendary status. The 149 is the flagship of Montblanc's Meisterstuck line and for good reason, it's their biggest nib which is a joy to write with and the classic black precious resin design makes it not only a classic looking writing instrument but also an elevated accessory for the breast pocket. The 149 is available in 3 trim options, yellow gold plating, platinum plating, and a newer rose gold option. Overall this is the Montblanc with the nib that I enjoy writing with the most because the #8 just feels so elegant gliding across the page despite it's rather large size. All 3 iterations of the 149 can be purchased from Pen Boutique for the price of $935 in the case of the rose and yellow gold or $985 for the platinum option. Since we are an authorized retailer it means that you also get Montblanc's warranty with every pen purchase you make.

Montblanc 146

    The 146 is like the younger sibling of the 149 and is essentially a smaller version with everything else being similar including overall design and filling mechanism. The main thing that sets the 146 apart from the rest of the Meisterstuck line is that it is available in a multitude of different special editions and is often used as the blueprint for things like the great characters lineup and other editions similar to that like their solitaire line which consists of precious metal work on the caps. The 146 is more of a regular sized pen whereas the 149 would be considered oversized so it may fit smaller hands a little better depending on preference. The base 146 is available in the same three trim colors as the 149 yellow gold, platinum, and rose gold but it comes in at a slightly lower price than the 149 and can be purchased at Pen Boutique for $710 for the yellow and rose gold or $720 for the platinum trim. There are also some more specialty editions available for a higher price. 

Pix Ballpoint & Rollerballs

    The pix holds a special place in my eyes because I just think that they are so fun due to all the bright colors that they are available in. Kind of the entry point for modern Montblanc writing instruments, the pix is a compact midsize pen that's available in both ballpoint and rollerball and I think it was really smart for them to offer both, I do wish that they were available in fountain pen but I understand that it may be difficult to keep an entry level price when introducing gold nibs and filling systems and all that. The biggest benefit of this pen is that you get to use all of Montblanc's fantastic BP & RB refills in all their speciality colors, my personal favorite is the Beatles special edition called Psychedelic Purple. The Pix can be purchased from Pen Boutique in a multitude of colors for the prices of $250 for the ballpoint and $285 for the rollerball variant.

Starwalker Fountain pen

    The Starwalker is Montblanc's modern take on the fountain pen and is quite a stark contrast to the classic look of their Meisterstuck line and that's a good thing. It shows that Montblanc has been open to the natural change and evolution of some peoples tastes when it comes to the writing instrument in recent history. The Starwalker is a little bit smaller than the 146 when un posted but has a good, solid twist to post mechanism on the end of the pen that keeps the cap in place for longer writing sessions. Overall a very intriguing looking pen that is made with the attention to detail and quality standard that Montblanc has been known for for over 100 years. The Starwalker is available in numerous finishes including sterling silver and even ceramic but the entry level model made of precious resin can be purchased for $500 and goes up to $2,000 for the ceramic model.

Gift Sets

    Another aspect where Montblanc shines is making comprehensive gift sets that include most if not everything to get you writing in style. Most of the sets we carry contain at least one pen whether it be FP, RB or BP and one of their premium leather bound notebooks which are sure to provide a quality writing experience. It's a good way to save a couple bucks and still have the reassurance that you are getting high quality luxury writing instruments and especially for gifts like for graduation or birthday, they make sure that everything to get you writing is included. We have a couple of gift sets available with different pens and notebooks that can be purchased anywhere between $500 to a couple thousand so there is something for everyone, check them out in store or on the site now!

Specialty ink

    Maybe my favorite part about Montblanc is how they make special themed ink that is immaculately presented and that is some of the best ink I've used to date, in fact, one of my top 5 inks is a Montblanc special edition called Pierced Sky that was an homage to king Moctezuma. The thing you'll notice is that the packaging and the ink bottle are very unique looking, the bottle itself is very understated and is actually fairly heavy with that classic snowcap on top and that's stored in a drawer style box with the color and theme on the outside along with the color. This is my favorite style of ink packaging, sure you pay a little more but it really feels like you are buying something special whether its for yourself or a gift, every time I fill a pen up with pierced sky it makes me happy opening the drawer box and doing the whole thing. Most great character inks and other special edition inks will set you back around $40 and they have a more classic ink line that is less expensive as well.

Notebooks

    Much like their specialty inks, Montblanc's notebooks usually are dedicated to some type of theme or come out at the same time as their special edition pens to commemorate the same thing, the Moctezuma notebook is really cool. Bound in leather with various designs or flat colors, they really do have something for everybody hither its for office use or if you just wanted to start a new journal. The pages in most of them are lined 85gsm paper that is silver cut meaning that when the notebook is closed, all the edges of the paper are silver which makes for a really cool vintage effect. We carry a ton of these in a bunch of different finishes so either take a look on our website by clicking the link or stop by to check them out in person and try the tester for yourself!
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Monday, May 17, 2021

Apollo Soyuz Retro 51

PBL Exclusive Apollo Soyuz Retro 51



The Soyuz as seen from the Apollo CSM
The Space Race, an era of fierce competition be
tween American and Soviet space programs which led to some of the most impressive and inspiring feats of human ingenuity ever seen, was bookended by two events: the launch of Sputnik in 1957, and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. After almost 20 years of breakneck progress from both sides, which gave us the first man in space, the first spacewalk, the moon landings, and countless other achievements unimaginable a generation before, NASA and their Soviet counterpart the Soviet Academy of Sciences worked together on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project to kick off a new age of international cooperation in space, the spirit of which lives on today in projects like the International Space Station.

In 1970, the administrator of NASA sent a letter proposing a joint orbital rendezvous between spacecraft from the US and USSR, and the next five years were spent training astronauts and building equipment from both countries to deal with the challenges created by the significant cultural, engineering, and design philosophy differences between the two space programs. The differences in how each organization approached spaceflight were profound, and led to significant difficulties as they worked together to integrate their respective systems.


The American space program we all know and love thinks of astronauts like pilots, "flying" their spacecraft with a similar level of involvement to a pilot flying a plane. In fact, NASA to this day teaches all astronauts who aren't already pilots coming into the program how to fly jets, because they believe having the mindset of a pilot is valuable in space. This approach requires highly trained and relatively independent crew members with an intimate understanding of their craft, but allows for creative solutions in dire circumstances like what happened on Apollo 13. This was diametrically opposed to the Soviet attitude towards their cosmonauts, who were treated more like passengers than pilots. Much of the involvement required of American astronauts in spaceflight was automated for their Soviet counterparts, which has the obvious benefits of reducing required training time and sources of potential human error, at the cost of significantly reduced adaptability.

Mission control in Houston
Another massive difference between the two approaches to spaceflight was their attitudes towards redundancy. In the American space program, a seemingly excessive level of redundancy is expected for all critical components where possible. As an example of this mindset, the computer that did the mission critical calculations for the space shuttle existed in triplicate; three independent computers would do every operation and vote to decide what to do. If one computer consistently voted against the majority, there was a fourth backup that the crew could hook up to replace the suspicious hardware. This was not an attitude shared by the Soviets in their space program. In Soviet craft like the Soyuz, everything had a specific purpose, and if there were any failures of critical equipment, the plan was to abort at earliest convenience. The obvious drawback to this philosophy is that an abort isn't always possible and there's potential for otherwise avoidable loss of life, but this is a less significant risk in the low earth orbit regime Soviet spacecraft operate in, as opposed to the long haul journeys to the moon and back the Apollo module was designed for. 

Perhaps most difficult to overcome from a technical standpoint was the incompatibility of the two craft's atmospheres. Prioritizing flame resistance, the Soyuz capsule had a mixed gas atmosphere similar to air at about sea level pressure, as there's a significantly reduced risk of fire inside the capsule compared to a pure oxygen environment with the addition of relatively inert nitrogen. Conversely, the Apollo command module used pure oxygen at 1/5th atmospheric pressure, because it's just as easy to breathe as normal air, but puts less strain on the walls of the capsule and allows for widespread weight savings. Had the two countries not worked together to build the Androgynous Peripheral Attach System (APAS), a unique two-sided airlock that bridged the two spacecraft and served as an adapter between their respective docking standards, the Soyuz side would likely have gone up in flames, and the Apollo side may have popped like a balloon. 
The crew of the mission


On the crew side, the 3 Americans and 2 Soviets who would go on the mission all learned Russian and English respectively, and spoke the native language of the other side for the duration of the rendezvous. According to the oral histories of the American astronauts, while they were training in Russia, they suspected their hotel rooms might be bugged. To test the theory, one of them loudly bemoaned the lack of a pool table in their hotel's lounge. Sure enough, the next morning a pool table had conveniently appeared. While together in orbit, the two crews exchanged 5 flags from each country, addressed TV audiences from around the world, and enjoyed the company of their counterparts in an unprecedented display of unity between the two Cold War powers.

This was the last flight of an Apollo module, as it would soon be replaced by the Space Shuttle as NASA's primary launch vehicle. On the Soviet and now Russian side, the Soyuz is still flying astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS to this day, and isn't expected to be replaced until at least 2023.





The Pen Boutique exclusive Apollo Soyuz Retro 51 commemorates this iconic moment in the history of space exploration in spectacular fashion. The sky blue upper section of the pen represents the Soyuz capsule, with its two distinctive blue bands. The bottom section's minimal markings, bare metal finish, and cross-shaped R-4D attitude control thrusters represent the exterior of the Apollo CSM, the same craft which carried the crew of Apollo 11 to and from the moon just 6 years prior. Bridging the two sections representing each spacecraft is a grey section representing the APAS, the most concrete example of the hurdles facing this mission and the inspiring efforts taken to overcome them. 

This is a limited edition of only 300 rollerballs, so act quickly if you want to own this beautiful tribute to international cooperation in space!
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