Monday, 13 June 2016


Let me start by making this important point: I am not a Montblanc fan.

 Generally I have found Montblanc to be overpriced and more a luxury brand with many strings to its bow than a serious contender for my Quillidyllic pursuits. I mean seriously, who gets away with calling plastic “precious resin”? But Montblanc DOES know the art of design; and every serious Quillophile needs a 149 in their acquisitional arsenal at some stage of their lives. But apart from the aqueducts….

So, enter the reincarnation of the Rouge et Noir.

This is a pen that insidiously draws out the procrastinator in me.

·      It’s tantalisingly within reach (compared with the coral Heritage 1914 that I love but will never afford).

·      It’s not the standard modern fountain pen (which makes sense given it’s modelled on a vintage one) and difference is always appealing

·      It comes in different options: Do I really want the coral (orangey/red) or do I want the black with the coral filial?

·      It’s thin; is it too thin?

·      Will I hate it?

Stay tuned… 
I was ready. Prepared. The girth. The colour. The photos on-line. … OK, I get it; but I want it; so let me at it already!

Box open.

It IS thin.

But look at that finial;

That colour;

That nib and

That clip .

This really IS a special pen.
“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing”. Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest

Enter stage left, the Rouge et Noir (and it has to be romantic, it’s French!).

My general preference in fountain pens is for big pens with wide girths. The paroxysms of joy wrapped up in my last review of the Classic Pens LB5 should make that clear enough. The Rouge et Noir does not fit this profile.

The Rouge et Noir (and I really love the name) IS a thin pen.

Perhaps it is because it is so thin that it conjures the Quill in a way that broader pens cannot. There is something propitious about the combination of its narrow girth and its stretch that bodes well for the writing experience ahead.

Based on the eponymous Rouge et noir Safety Pen of 1906 (110 years ago – I know, I’m a maths genius!), the new Rouge et Noir captures time and imagination and places it in your hand (sorry, that really sounded like a marketing blurb – but it does).

This sense of history flows all over the Rouge et Noir; but mostly plops in the cap.

What a cap!
It starts with the snake or serpent clip. The new term for “precious resin” is “special alloy metal”, but whatever it’s called, the undulating flow of the clip as the serpent’s body secures itself to the top of the cap is mesmerising. 
The green jewels in the eyes of the serpent (only available on the coral) deliver the hypnotic attraction of Rudyard Kipling’s Kaa in Jungle Book singing, in the Disney version, “Trust in me”… Even the scales of the serpent serve to reduce its gleam and increase its cachet. 

Moving above the serpent to the filial we are presented with what some social media commentators have called “the pudding”. 

The pudding is a fabulous reference to the banana custard of the Monty star spreading across the filial and down on to the pudding. On the top of both the black and coral versions of the Rouge et Noir sits this coral coloured filial topped by the melting star in cream. On the black version of the pen this is especially fetching as it contrasts so beautifully with the black of the rest of the pen. On the coral version the filial simply continues the homogeneity of the design throughout. What is special about this star is its connection with vintage Montblanc fountain pens. Newer Monty’s have smaller stars, and generally white. The cream (or ivory) again evokes another era, another time, deceptively another piece of history in your hand (the serpent’s work again – it’s a modern pen). That link with history is again evident in the use of the old Montblanc brand logo (again in cream) on the cap.
Shameless repeat of a photograph used above - I just like it!
Then we move to the silver section. On the good side, the silver is almost more of a gunmetal colour than a bright silver; so it’s not too jarring to the eye. Even so, I’m not a silver section fan. Given the length of this pen, I think the idea of breaking up the colour is not a bad one; but a Bakelite-type colour in the coral, or even black, would have been a better choice (and there’s proof in the “pudding” if you look to Monty’s Hermingway or the Delta’s Dolcevita).
This was a little experiment a friend with a Black Rouge et Noir and myself performed for a Melbourne Pen Show. Check out especially the bottom combination here - it's a Hemingway light!


The Rouge et Noir boasts a svelte span of around 9mm (the cap is about 10mm). Combined with the length (capped around 135mm; uncapped around 128mm), this exaggerates the long and slender form of this historic Monty suggesting it may be on its way to the basketball playoffs!
From left: Sailor Realo (special edition); R&N, Montblanc Hemingway. 
It can post (and re-bound); but it’s a shallow post, makes this basket-baller a real string bean, and doesn’t really work with the balance of the pen (although it can be handy if you want to keep looking at that spectacular cap).

The cap itself takes up only around 46mm of the 135mm length; which again adds to the sense of stretch.
Comparison with a Karas Kustoms Bolt (for no real reason other than fun)
If you are a regular reader you’ll know I don’t weigh my pens. I can say however the Rouge et Noir has some weight to it; which makes it feel more substantial than it’s diminutive girth might suggest. Not too heavy, just heavy enough to make it feel like a significant pen; and to balance well in the hand when writing. Oh, and it looks great sitting in that hand too!

The look of the nib is one of the reasons I chose the coral rather than the black Rouge et Noir. The coral has a two-tone 14 k rhodium-coated nib with the serpent’s head in gold, which provides subtle relief from the silver/grey of the section. The black version of the Rouge et Noir has a single tone nib. The diamond shape of the serpent-head adds subtly to the flow of the nib and combines well with the triangular breather hole.

The Rouge et Noir nib takes its design cues from the Heritage 1912 (my favourite Monty nib) with the diamond breather hole – a shape I really like.  This time, in proportion to the pen width, the nib seems smaller. But I was surprised when I compared them to find that they are essentially the same size (with some subtle variation: the 1912 appears to be a touch wider and the breather hole a touch bigger).

My Heritage 1912 has a medium nib that writes beautifully with a lovely touch of bounce. I heard tell that the broad nib version was even better so this time I went for the broad.

From out of the box there is something not entirely right about this nib. There is perhaps a touch of baby’s bottom, an off-and-on hard-start, a sound when I write that is almost a squeak. Whatever it is, while I can feel a little of that 1912 bounce, this nib needs some tweaking. The line is nice enough when I write and while the ink is flowing (and I like the broad); but it doesn’t elicit the same subtle rise to the corners of my mouth that is the gift of the Heritage 1912. I’ll get this Smith-i-fied in time ( ); but a little disappointment in a still big purchase for a premium pen.

The “piston filler” description for this pen is a perfect match for its “precious resin” and “special alloy metal”. This pen is more likely a captured converter. I have nothing against captured converters; I just wouldn’t call them piston fillers. In mine, the knob has just a touch of slack as well (just a fraction of a millimetre or so). Regardless, we are not talking huge capacity, but still not bad. A little sneaky here on the marketing side.

The Rouge et Noir takes Montblanc away from its standard designs (the 149, 146, etc) into the territory of its special, writers, limited editions without asking the buyer for the same level of budget commitment. That is a good thing. Of course it’s a Montblanc so it’s not an inexpensive pen; but for what is being offered, this is a good buy and a great effort.

The Rouge et Noir is a fountain pen definitely worth having on the acquisition agenda. Yes, there are elements to it that are not for everyone or for everyday, but it is still a special pen.

00-50   = to be avoided at all costs
51-60   = if it’s cheap and you don’t really care….
61-70   = a nice pen with the makings of something better (just don’t spend too much)
71-80   = A better than average pen with just a few flaws that stop it from being really good
81-90   = A good pen, a keeper only a few minor places off being great
91-95   = Now THIS is a pen! If you can get it: keep it, love it, cherish it, and keep it away from the dog
96-100  = Grail

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Classic Pens Sailor King of Pen LB5 - Amethyst (TAIRIKU)

This is a pen that is appearing everywhere at the moment; and there have already been some great reviews: 

  • penhabit (Matt Armstrong) does a great one (which "enabled" my purchase); as does 
  • Dan Smith (Nibsmith) - who's passion for the pen first drew it to my attention.
  • SBRE Brown - (a recent update; a common love theme)

So why review it again? Because it's that sort of pen. It just makes you want to share the love! 

When you listen/see Matt, Dan and Mr B, you'll see the passion in their eyes and hear it in their voices. In Matt's case, the passion is bordering on obsession as I believe that to date he has three of these in his possession! (and it's not a cheap pen).

I will leave most of the specific details to Matt, Dan and Steven; but a few of my personal observations will appear here.


OMG - this is a BIG pen! 

And that colour!! Together with the gold accessories: Hooley-Dooley!!! 

Now the nib - egad!! Enormous!!

So far, Matt is still on my Christmas card list.

The Classic Pens LB5 is an extraordinary pen.
It's design is based on the Sailor King Profit pen. As you have probably gathered, it's a big pen. Put in context, by comparison this pen makes the Montblanc 149 Meisterstuck almost look like a Kaweco Liliput! 
From top: Montblanc 149, Jinhao 159, the LB5 and a Nakaya Long writer (the only longer pen here - and that one is 165mm long!)
There are six pens in this limited edition series; 50 in each colour that represent a different aspect of nature: Tensui (raindrops), Midorgi (new green trees), Kouseki (metal ore), Kaen (violent flames) and two with one name: Tariku (continent) my amethyst and a marbled white version. I don't know what lead to the particular choice of natural phenomena, but these pens are phenomena unto themselves!
Here is the full 25th anniversary Shizen (Nature) set on the cover of the Andy Lambrou book. From Left: Tensui (raindrops) in space blue 2013, Midorigi (new green trees) in forest green 2014, Kaen (violent flames) in flame red 2013, Kouseki (metal ore) in diamond brown 2014, Tairiku (continent) in Amethyst Mauve 2014, and then the real thing, MY real thing) on the end. There is another LB5. This one is also called the Tairuki, but is in Marble White (also 2014)  - see below -

If it wasn't already clear from my earlier comments, the LB5 is a pen designed to be noticed; and it fulfils its brief!  

Of course it starts with the size; but size isn't everything (in most cases). The Amethyst/mauve of my pen, has a wonderful depth to it that just makes you want to gaze endlessly into the pen (great for those meetings where you need to look mesmerised but struggle to see why). Matched with the yellow gold clip, band, nib and converter, you are presented with a ridgy-didge (Australian for legitimate) "Meisterstuck"! 

Is it a touch gaudy? Well it IS a bright and in-your-face colour and size. But, that, and the emotional responses it has elicited from others, is what attracted me to the pen in the first place.

9/10 (one mark off for making me acknowledge I get attracted by shiny things!)

The section diameter is a whopping 13mm. The length of the pen capped is around 158 mm and uncapped, from the tip of the nib it comes in at 136 mm. Posted to measures at a highly respectable 173 mm!

This means that the LB5 is probably not a pen for someone with small hands. Luckily, that's not me.

I don't weigh my pens; but some readers appear to need some sort of weight scale in my reviews so I have invented one that works for me: the Feather Scale. 

My feather scale has 5 levels.

1. (surprise, surprise) feather light; 
   2. pretty light
   3. Lightish but with a bit more heft
   4. Quite a bit of heft; would get tiring after a while; and 
   5. Equivalent to writing with a sledge hammer.
So for me, on the Eclectidbits Feather scale, the LB5 falls nicely as a category 3. This is a very comfortably weighted pen. The LB5 feels good to hold, not too light, not too heavy. It can sit happily in the hand for long sessions (even posted), but feels substantial enough to let you know it's there doing its thing. For comparison, holding the LB5 in one hand and a MB 149 in the other, there is very little weight difference.

If I seem somewhat obsessed by size in this review, I apologise. Again, this is one monster size nib! 

I have two Sailor King of Pen (no 's')  fountain pens: one in black and chrome and the other in ebonite; and they both have the same humungous nibs. Those pens have medium nibs; this time I chose a broad nib. As you may have heard elsewhere, Japanese nib sizes tend to run finer than their european counterparts; so the broad is more like a european medium and the medium like a european fine. In any case, these three 21 k gold nibs are extraordinary writers. The broad nib has quickly become my favourite of the three. Whatever the size however, these nibs are smooth straight out of the box, daring their users to write the great *(insert nationality here) novel/poem/treatise immediately these nibs are filled with ink and start to mark their owner's paper of choice ! 

If flex nibs are your thing however, Sailor nibs, and the nib on these pens particularly, are not the place to be. There is a little bounce (adding to the comfort and a little variation) but no flex to speak of; just a well suspended ride along a paper highway.
A Quick writing sample
9.5/10 (only because I DO like a little flex)

Piston fillers are my preference, and at this price level, it is a little disappointing that a piston didn't find its way into this pen. 
The Sailor converter is certainly a nice looking alternative converter to the majority (less plastic); but this is the one area in this review where I think the pen was let down.

I have already filled this pen 3 times; and I would have to say that while the ride is sublime, its miles per gallon (litres per 100 kilometres) is not extraordinary. This is not the pen for a long session without access to an ink station. Given the size of the pen, this is somewhat disappointing.

Six colours. Only 50 per colour. 300 pens available world-wide (yes I can add). Not cheap. 

Mine (#34) came with a copy of Andy Lambrou's book (Fountain Pens of Japan) with a cover photo of these 5 LB5s (and signed and numbered by him) - nice touch.

Unfortunately, the cost places this pen beyond the reach of many; but is it worth it?


There is good reason why the Classic Pens LB5 has elicited such devotion and emotion from its owners. This is a lifetime pen that begs to be used, admired, and enjoyed.  

0-50 = to be avoided at all costs
51-60        = if it’s cheap and you don’t really care….
61-70        = a nice pen with the makings of something better (just don’t spend too much)
71-80        = A better than average pen with just a few flaws that stop it from being really good
81-90        = A good pen, a keeper only a few minor places off being great
91-95        = Now THIS is a pen! If you can get it: keep it, love it, cherish it, and keep it away from the dog

96-100       = Grail

RIP Prince.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Grail Sale! (ie. please fund my next purchase by buying these pens!)

I want a new pen.
I have no spending money.
I have pens I don't use.
Sell pens, buy new one!
Ta Da!!!!

So here they are; from the top and in $US:

  • Parsons Essential with fine cursive stub [SOLD]
  • Pilot MR (in Australia - otherwise known as Metropolitan) Medium nib ($15)
  • Waterman Edson - stub nib (including converter; not including box) [SOLD]
  • Platinum President Izumo (Iron Sword) Tamenuri Akatame Red edition (Urushi) (including box and pen kimono etc as pictured)  M 18k nib. [SOLD}
  • Pelikan Go! ($25)
  • PLUS (not pictured above, but definitely pictured below)
    • PILOT CUSTOM 823 - smoke grey, M nib [SOLD]
Something for everybody!!!

All pens are good writers; and not written with much - hence the sale!

Payment is by paypal and includes international postage. More charge if you want package tracked.

Here's a few more pics:


You can see the opaque smoky colour in the cap here

The President sitting on her box

The President tipping her cap (this is the wooden box)

The President and her entourage (all this is included)
This nib is just a treat. Pen is in great condition and beautiful. I have two of these (that's just excesssive - as is the extra "s")

This is a wonderful piston-filling Pelikan
A lovely writer !


Questions can be sent to my email:

Until next tine....