Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sailor Jentle Sky High Ink (Old) Review

Sailor, as most of you are aware is one of the Big 3 companies in Japanese fountain pen industry. Apart from some great nibs, Sailor does manufacture some amazing inks. Probably, Sailor is the only Japanese company that has released many more variants of ink along the lines of store-speciality inks than under its own umbrella.

The ink I am reviewing is the old Sailor Jentle Sky High Ink with product code 13-1000-241. It been one of my favourite blue inks, although I do have a bottle of similarly hued and a newer Souten (13-1005-205). Sailor has also relaunched Skyhigh in international markets, which comes with product code 13-9171-241. I am yet to try the new Skyhigh.




Bottle/Packaging


Sailor Sky High came in a 50 ml bottle which looked like the below one. It was packaged in white cardboard box with everything, except brand and volume of ink, in Japanese ๐Ÿ˜
                 There is a plastic funnel insert to help fill ink into your pen, which in my humble opinion is equally useless. Filling ink in a nibsize#6 pen (CC or piston) can be challenging, given the low bottom pan-like structure of the bottle, the nib/feed can hardly immerse itself in the bottle. So for me, the ink stays in a TWSBI Diamond 50 bottle.

Writing with Sky High


The ink is a well behaved with absence of any noticeable feathering on decent grade of paper including copypaper. Depending on the paper thickness there could be some ghosting, else it a pretty much 'no worry' azure blue ink.
  • Feathering: ๐Ÿ˜Š None 
  • Ghosting: ๐Ÿ˜ A bit on Muji notebook 
  • Color Variation: ๐Ÿ˜ Vibrant from light to dark shades
  • Sheen: Towards Violet & Red 
  • Wetness: ๐Ÿ˜Š



  • Saturation :๐Ÿ˜Š 
  • Water Resistance: ๐Ÿ˜ž 
  • Ease of Cleaning: ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • Shading: ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • Flow: ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • Lubrication: ๐Ÿ˜Š
  • Drying Time: ๐Ÿ˜ 30 seconds+ 
  • Price: ๐Ÿ˜  (Around $ 12 as landed price in 2014)

Digital Colour Meter



Nibs

Pelikan Steel Italic Nib




Main Supplies

  • Pelikan M200 Cognac - Italic Nib 
  • Muji B6 PP Cover Notebook, Dotted Paper
Thank you for going through the review.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Review of Namiki Yukari Royale in Vermillion(Red) Urushi


A wait longer than words can define, an Emperor in Red singing a glistening rhapsody, and then a Yukari dazzling in Royale Red glory. The pens, an encompassment of elegance of words, combined with precision of maki-e artisans have been unsurpassed. The Yukari did anxiously waited in my hands to have it's first sip of ink and I had same thoughts with what if clauses! Before getting the Yukari, this is a must read-review by FPNer shuuemura, which is a rather poetic series of pictures with practical words, comparing two pilot beauties in black urushi. 

This pen, one can find ideal for everyday carry to write or to keep admiring the marvel it is! The doubly magnified and magnificent emperor would be more suitable for the latter though. Having said that, when both are together, it’s more fulfilling than a sumptuous meal. 

PS. Google says Yukari in Japanese means Affinity (ไธŠ่จ˜) and is feminine by gender. 

In case you are looking for a review of the larger Emperor (sized pen), the below link redirects to the necessarily ‘unnecessary’ eye-candies :) 


A BRIEF HISTORY 


The Namiki Yukari Royale more or less derives itself from the 80th Anniversary fountain pen (with only 1918 produced) aka the ShiSen, which was launched in 1998. The cap band was then imprinted with four mythical creatures - Dragon, Phoenix, Tiger and XuanWu (Tortoise). 

The band decorated with the Shijin (four gods) was finished in Togidashi maki-e. The Chinese fable of these creatures goes like this - Each mythical creature is supposed to guard one particular Earth direction and is Harbinger of a particular season. They are respectively, Shujaku - the red phoenix of the South (Summer), Byakko - the white tiger of the West (Autumn), Genbu - the black tortoise of the North (Winter) and Seiryu - the blue dragon of the East (Spring). The latter four are the Buddhist guardians of the four directions who serve Lord Taishakuten (who represents the center), and are associated with China’s Theory of Five Elements. 

The 80th Anniversary pen is rather excellently reviewed here by RLD. 

And later, in 2005, another 50 Seki Shun LE pieces (branded as Dunhill Namiki) were made by Pilot/Namiki for the Elephant & Coral Store which are still available. The clip matches the colour of the main finish in the earlier editions, something which may or may not appeal to all of us. 

URUSHI 


Urushi as you may know is the otherwise poisonous sap of the urushi or lacquer tree (Toxicodendron Vernicifluum) which grows in Japan, China, and Korea and is primarily brown in colour. The sap of this tree polymerises to form a hard, durable, plastic-like substance, when exposed to moisture/air. Liquid urushi can be applied to multiple materials like wood, metal, cloth, resin, ceramics or ebonite as opposed to the best available synthetic lacquers. When it solidifies, it turns into a very hard coating that is waterproof and protects the coated object from effects of fungus, ambient chemical reactions at surface due to heat or humidity or even from caustic acids. By mixing pigments into cured urushi, colored urushi such as black or shu (red) are made. With natural exposure to air and ultraviolet light (extended UV exposure ends up in discolouration), the urushi layers gradually increase in transparency and the material gradually unveils shades of original bright colours within. 

Like the Emperor, the Yukari Royale also comes in a spacious wooden box, made of traditional Paulownia wood. The box is protectively packaged inside a cardboard box. I had to let go of the box, while someone hand-delivered the pen, along with the accessories! 

                            The model number of the pen, in this case FNK-128S-<R/B>-<F/FM/M/B> contains the launch price, colour and nib width. The 128 refers to the list price of JPY 128,000 whereas the third digit R/B refers to the red/black urushi. 

THE TORPEDO 


This Lacquer No.#20 model comes in two standard finishes - Black & Vermillion (Urushi) with gold plated clips. The brass body feels comfortable in hand, from dual perspectives of dimensions and weight. 

The torpedo shaped pen in Vermillion/Red is adorable in both light and shadow, and when light reflects through layers of urushi, it renders itself an electric red appearance. I believe the brass substrate is partly responsible for its bright hues compared to a relatively darker scarlet hue off the Emperor’s ebonite. The expected fit & finish seem impeccable. The simplistic yet elegant design comes with two golden accents, provided deftly by the traditional triangular shaped tension fit clip with a sphere and a thin gold ring at the cap lip. Again there is a marked absence of any other decoration like a cap band or ring or anything else on the entire pen, extending infinity to modes of artistic convergence. 

Vermillion is considered as an auspicious colour throughout East Asia, where it’s culturally imbibed. It has four synthetic & natural shades as of today: Red-Orange[sRGB (255, 83, 73)], Orange-Red[sRGB (255, 69, 0)], Plochere[sRGB (217, 96, 59)] and Chinese Red[sRGB (170, 56, 30)]. The shades/hue of the pens in red urushi might vary. 

                 The cap finds itself after two turns, revealing a nib with the modern Mt.Fuji inscription. The seamless grip shows a pronounced taper starting from the barrel and ends up with a smoothly carved out bump, rendering continuity. 

The cap threads on the barrel are carved out with artistic finesse, deftly spaced and carved out of brass. The barrel at the other end leads leisurely to the smoothest tail. 

The brass cap again displays the most subtle art, sans any discernible extravagance. It carries the same perseverance and focus with a fluid like finish. The finish is impeccable with a parabolic finial and with colours hovering between bright and dark red, with the play of light. The clip is traditional triangular Pilot with a sphere at the end, inscribed with Namiki with the ‘Isosceles Triangle within a Pentagon’ logo. There is a thin gold ring at the cap lip, the only adornment than the golden clip. There is a alphanumeric code inscribed on the upper base of the clip, where it delves into the cap. 


FILLING SYSTEM - ‘CON-70 ZINDABAD’ 


The section unscrews from the barrel with three and half turns, with a metallic clink, given the metallic threads on both the section and the barrel. This exposes the golden metallic threads of the section, which would otherwise remain ever hidden! A special CON-70 converter, in black, is pushed inside. 

The inner barrel carries the opposite metallic threads. With a short black coating near the threads which contacts with the section, the rest of the brass barrel is all exposed metal on the inside.

The pen can take all pilot converters CON-20/40/50 (0.4-0.5 mL) & CON-70 (1 mL) along with pilot proprietary cartridges (0.9 mL). I have used the included ‘special black’ CON-70 converter, which has a push button filling mechanism. Mind you, the ink bottle with have some froth during the otherwise fun filling exercise. Although, for Yukari I have always directly filled the converter from an eye dropper! 


NIB WITH THE ‘OVAL’ BREATHER HOLE 


The nib with the Yukari Royale is 18k, Size#20 (similar to Pilot#15) and it comes in four stock widths - F, FM, M & B, across Japan and other distribution countries. Inscribed upon it, is the symbol of Mt. Fuji and the upper part does seems symbolic of the snow caps! Comparatively the nib weighs a tad more than a usual pilot#15 nib (middle vs right, 0.78g vs 0.70g), but at the same time it is much less wide at the shoulders. 

The oval breather hole rests within the snow caps. Below the snow, etched are the Namiki Logo (Isosceles triangle inside a Pentagon), Namiki, gold alloy specs (18k-75%) and Nib width <M

On the left the #20 nib carries the Namiki Logo with Ste PP-F hallmark and on the right it carries a simple date stamp. The red plastic feeder does converge with the overall color of the pen, though I would have preferred a similarly urushi coated feeder, which only the Emperor has! May be it’s a feed size limitation, may be Pilot doesn't want to spend more money, I have no idea. The moderately spaced fins ensure levelling ambient air pressure and give you a good buffer, my experience says it’s a tad better than the usual pilot feed. You can see the three different feeds, Size#50 Emperor, Size#20 Yukari Royale & the Size#15 Custom 823, side by side. 


PHYSICS AS RELATIVELY IT IS


The lacquer somewhat helps in keeping the pen warm which is otherwise metallic, and renders it comfortable for writing. The pen is deftly balanced for writing, even for extended use. The grip, smooth & soothing, showcases both utility and elegance at the same time. I do not post the pen as the cap is not as inlaid with as much felt/velvet as the Emperor. Figures for weight and dimensions run below for the technically minded ones. 
  • Length closed ~ 14.9 cm 
  • Length open ~ 13.4 cm 
  • Grip Diameter ~ 1.1 cm 
  • Nib Leverage ~ 2.4 cm 
  • Weight (without ink) ~ 45 g 
  • Weight (without cap) ~ 27.4 g 
Capped, uncapped pictures with a Pilot Custom 823 run below for your reference. There is an Emperor posing, just to highlight its relative significance :) 

The uncapped Emperor without weighs around 31 grams and the Yukari with an unfilled converter weighs around 27 grams. And this is one of the most comfortable pens, I found.


ECONOMIC VALUE 


The Yukari Royale retails at around USD 1200 in the US, and you can find it at similar prices in Japan. I was able to source the pen at a good bargain. 

                     Logically the economic value should be equal to salvage value of the pen after a few years of use and I don't think the price will vary by much even after few years of use, given that someone finally decides to sell it off. Having said that, even though the pen is one of its kind, you should give it a serious thought. It will result in a fair amount of money trapped within the urushi layers! 

FINAL WORDS IN WRITING 


The medium nib is graced with a super wet flow, which might put a few of my Pelikans to utter shame! The nib is as smooth as I want it to be, with a slight hint of control, evident in all pilot gold nibs, strictly speaking. I feel that there is some characteristic spring and softness because of the size & shape of the nib, and it does open up with a bit of pressure. The verticals grow thicker with pressure, and this nib runs a tad thicker than a usual pilot medium nib. No skips with fast or normal writing. It writes pretty similar at whether held at a high angle or a low angle. A relatively wet Sailor Nioi-Sumire ink takes around 55 seconds to dry completely on Tomoe River paper with the #20 medium nib. 

Thank you for going through the review. 
You can find other pen and paraphernalia reviews here

REFERENCES 



Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Visconti Homo Sapiens Florentine Hills Review

THE HOMO SAPIENS 


In late 2009, Florence-based luxury pen maker Visconti announced in a press-release covering a nib made of 95% Palladium (23k) alloy. Commonly available nibs are 14k/18k/21k Gold alloy (Sailor), with a few exceptions (Danitrio & the Japanese karat warriors), and this was the first of its kind perhaps after the Esterbrook or Sheaffer PdAg nibs.

The other side of the snippet showcased a pen christened with a name of Homo Sapiens(HS), which was forged from an equal mix of basaltic lava and resin, adorned with bronze and protected from competitors by a patent. The lava came from Mt. Etna (one of the active volcanoes) on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. 

I came to know of the HS a few years later. Visconti (estd. 1988) promised the HS lava to be unbreakable, flameproof (upto 100°C), albeit with a slightly hygroscopic body, oxidation prone bronze trims, but with a corrosion-resistant titanium power filler. The available designs now range from lava plus bronze/steel/black PVD to a 388-limited edition (bronze LE) or some 1000-LEs Crystal Swirls or Florentine Hills or 888-limited-London Fog (made up of Acroloid/Sterling Silver). Besides, fountain pens there are also roller-balls and ball-point pens in the HS range, but those, of course do not concern our primary interest. Initially after getting a HS in bronze, I was always on the lookout for one of these beauties in silver trims.



DESIGN (6/6) 


AN ITALIAN JOB 


Visconti started the Homo Sapiens in Bronze & Lava as an homage to the evolution of mankind. Bronze Ages predates us by around five thousand years is the period, when humans began smelting and mixing of metals like copper and tin, to produce alloys like bronze. Also during that particular period, a system of writing/recording had evolved, mostly through the use of symbols. The trim-fittings including the HS Bronze clip are all made of bronze. 

                      The Florentine Hills carries the same design but is an acrylic demonstrator fused with ribbons of coloured celluloid suspended within - thereby the nomenclature acryloid. The ribbons range from light green to vivid tinges of yellow and reddish brown. 
 
These colours remind of meanderings through vineyards and olive groves, from the beechwood forests to the grassy groves of the countryside. The splendid works of Tuscany art and those picturesque landscapes somehow seem to share quite a common inspiration in spirit. 
 
                     A large silver centre-band at the start of the grip section with a HOMO SAPIENS imprint is followed by the particular LE number of the piece. So it’s typically XXX/1000 unless you ended up with the thousandth piece. The overall shape tapers towards the ends where you can enjoy the translucency of vivid green. Looks almost photosynthetic! The cap & blind cap might carry some of those celluloid ribbons, in a more subtle manner. 

The taper is more pronounced at the plunger end/blind cap rather than in the cap itself. A sterling silver loop embellishes the design at the start of the blind cap. It’s actually the filler collar. You can perhaps see a drop of Yama Budo :)

The unique locking system of the cap is nothing new if you have tried a HS. The quick hook safe lock threads (six) enable disengaging the cap, with a quarter of counter-clockwise twist. 

That little twist will of course reveal the dazzle of 23 karat Palladium nib and another photosynthetic grip section! A click is heard, once you correctly twist-lock the cap. A view of the inner cap locks

The cap has a spring inside to assist the locking mechanism. The section starts with the upraised locking threads with a faint resemblance to the Greek Key, and then tapers comfortably before ending up with a slightly raised stop. 

The finial mentions VISCONTI with the company trademark of the mirrored V. As always, the medal is customizable via Visconti's My Pen System with your initials or zodiac sign or gemstone (available from $15 onwards). You can pull out the visconti medallion from the finial by using any magnet and replace it with a gemstone of your choice. VISCONTI is embossed within a dark enamel background on both sides of the Ponte Vecchio clip which is made of sterling silver. 

The cap itself has a subtle taper towards the finial. Two spaced silver rings adorn the middle of the cap, dazzling within the greener pastures. The clip is spring loaded and you have to lift it to put it in your shirt pocket. The HS Bronze cap seems to have its own allure. :) 



FILLING SYSTEM (5/6) 


A silver loop logically separates the blind-cap, from rest of the barrel. On rotating the blind cap till its end-stop, you will be able to pull out a plunger, much like a tethered sword pulled from its sheath. The inside of the blind cap carries a silver insert to run the threads and so that the acrylic is protected from any damage. 

          The plunger rod is made of Titanium, a metal which has proved to be phenomenally resistant to most corrosive of fluids. Titanium rods are often placed as support inserts by dentists, in order to rebuild broken tooth structures! However, the shining filler collar made of sterling silver shines down condescendingly on the rather dull rod. 

The filler collar in the HS bronze is made of titanium with a graphite like dull lustre. 
 
                                Once you push in the knob with the nib dipped inside an ink bottle, you can feel a surge of ink inside the pen. An ink capacity of around 2.2 mL doesn't allow your favourite ink to last that long, given a generous flow of even for a fine nib! Here you can observe the secondary ink chamber (double walled), which can be loaded/drained into the main chamber, once you pull back the piston seal. My flight experience has been pleasant with a fully filled secondary chamber. So unless one is taking the HS FH to Mars/ISS, one doesn't have to worry about it. The small chamber lasts quite a few pages with the Fine nib and can be filled once the wetness reflects a paucity of fuel! During longer writing sessions or broad nibs, I keep the piston seal open. 



NIB - ALL THAT MATTERS (3/6) 


The giant two-tone nib with an usual iridium tip comes in four main sizes – EF, F, M & B along two special widths – BB (double-broad) & Stub (S). The nib has an leverage of around 2.6 cm and it is a #6 Visconti nib. These dreamtouch nibs are manufactured by Bock. Half of them are probably out of touch due to a tine issue or the other!

             At the tail end of the nib, lies the nib width, above which embossed are the specifications of 23k Pd 950 and a word FIRENZE. Firenze refers to Florence in Italy which is the birthplace of both Italian Renaissance and Visconti Pens, thereby its borrowed tagline - The Writing Renaissance

                      Palladium is the dazzling silvery and matches well with the overall trims. Personally though, I prefer the two-tone gold adornment. The silvery finish diverges from the lunar-eclipse breather hole across the inside of the tines and over to the tail. The name VISCONTI lies below the moony breather hole, with splashes of shapes of diamonds, droplets and half-moons to ornament the nib. This one is a fine nib and came with misaligned tines. Now it writes smoothly after adjusting the tines, thankfully I didn't have to send it to Visconti again. 

              The feed is a standard visconti feed with closely spaced fins, carrying the V logo at the delta region. The nib is screw-fit onto the grip section and can be swapped with ease, provided you take care of the tines. It has a bit of flex (which increases with use), although there is not much difference for an EF & F nib, when it comes to line variation with mild pressure. Be careful with over-flexing the palladium nib, it might result in a permanent damage. 

This nib initially ran wet, though it gave a strong feedback at certain angles due to the right tine, which was misaligned. The right tine stood lower than the left. And the width it lay was close to a true EF. That’s was what bewildered me, how come a Visconti Fine write so thin! I bet it was still better than some of my bad sailor nibs! Post alignment of the tines, the width of the lines increased to a true European fine or a Japanese medium and it now runs with heavy juice. 


PHYSICS OF IT (6/6) – RELATIVELY SPEAKING 


With a cylindrical body forged out of acrylic and celluloid & adorned with silver rings, it does give an earthly greenish repose. The overall weight has got a significant contribution from the cap due to the silver clip. A girth of around 1 cm is quite comfortable and it’s one of the most comfortable pens for me. As an analogy, the cap itself could be as heavy as a Pelikan m400 fountain pen. The HS bronze is heavier compared to the FH. 

  • Capped Length ~ 14.4 cm 
  • Non-posted Length ~ 13.2 cm 
  • Non-posted Weight ~ g 
  • Nib Leverage ~ 2.6 cm 
  • Overall Weight ~ 37.8 g (HS Bronze ~ 43.7 g) 
  • Overall Weight (inked) ~ 40.1 g 

  • Weight Without Cap ~ 22.8 g (HS Bronze ~ 26.6 g) 
         Comparing capped lengths, the HS (Since HS LEs are Oversize/Maxi) does seem similar to a Pilot Custom 823 (which is not as hefty), a m1000 is there to reference a comparison with the Size#8 nib (its heft is on the higher of HS). 
 



ECONOMIC VALUE (4/6) 


          Though the Homo Sapiens Florentine Hills sells around USD 800, it is available for lower street prices. I was able to get the pen at a pretty good price, and I don't want your decision to be coloured by this price, apart from discussing it. Still, I do fail to find a great economic value for a piece of acrylic with some silver(@50 cents/gram), even though it does feel great to hold, write and a pleasure to see. I feel the bronze edition is a rather memorable pen to keep. 


OVERALL (4.8/6) 


             One thing regarding the misaligned tines, it was an easy fix for me and did not require specialised services. It’s the most common problem across many luxury brands and sometimes it does run worse. Had it been something worse where I would have had to send the nib back, my rating would have been 1/6 on the nib, 1-for the design. 

           I am used to a few large pens, I like the balance and do not find any problem with either the heft or balance of HS. Personally I like the Lava model more, since the materials and workmanship seem much more elegant. There is some line variation as the #6 nib does render springy softness to cushion mild writing pressures. No hard starts, no skips! The Fine nib lays a line which runs true to its European standards and for a cross-reference it runs more like a Japanese Medium nib. The pen feels well balanced for my hands though it does seem to have a short section for gripping. The hook-safe threads might interfere with your grip, if you tend to hold a pen higher. 

I have used multiple fills of Iroshizuku Yama Budo & GvFC Moss Green inks, and the pen runs rather nicely with Iro. Which pen doesn't :) Being a wet writer out of the box, the Fine nib lays a nice juice but thinner line, which takes around 35 seconds to dry a GvFC Moss Green (I find Moss Green to dry quicker) on MD Paper. 

The flex is evident due to the springy nib, which with a gentle pressure delivers thicker strokes, though the range of strokes run broader with increasing nib-width. Personally, I would have saved up for a Conid in acrylic, but the lure or Palladium/Silver/Acryloid vs a Titanium/Acrylic marched right ahead in my head. Perhaps some day else, since titan is already there.


REFERENCES 



Thank you for going through the review. 
You can find some more pen and paraphernalia reviews here