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The Visconti Homo Sapiens - A Writer's View

visconti homo sapiens michael jecks author writing

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#1 Writer01

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:19


I first heard of the Visconti pen some months ago when I was working hard on my last book. 

It is the normal way of things for a writer. You would not believe the inventive ways by which an author can avoid writing. There is research, there is reading other people’s books to get a flavour for what is being read by other people, there is fetching a coffee, chatting to the postman, calling parents, friends, brothers, and irritating them with the fact that you’re desperately seeking any displacement activity that will save you from writing the next book.

This day, I was looking at Cult Pens’ website, and found the Visconti.

Now, I am an author. I have little in the way of decent expenses and equipment, but one thing I can claim for is things to be used for writing. And I like that.

There is nothing, nothing whatsoever, as appealing to me as sitting with a blank sheet of paper and writing. With a few outline sketches and scrawls, I can plan out a book, and it’s much more enjoyable than bashing keys on a keyboard.

Some years ago I went to Conway Stewart and proposed to them that they should design a new collection, perhaps to call it the Detection Collection, and work in collaboration with crime writers to create new pens. It was a success, and the Michael Jecks Pen was the result. Soon there will be more. 

I love the Michael Jecks pen, but I dare not take it out with me too often. It could be damaged, it could get lost, and that would mortify me because my Author's Prototype is literally irreplaceable, so generally I always used my first Conway Stewart pen, a Churchill. 

It’s a great pen. It writes well, and I like the size and weight, but there are some problems with it. 

The first issue for me is, after using it a lot in recent years, it has grown a little scratched. Nothing massive, but where I have carried it in my pocket, the edges have been rubbed and marked. I work two days each week at Exeter University for the Royal Literary Fund, helping students to write more effectively, and I do need to carry a pen with me all the time (I hate biros and won't use them). I have to travel to give talks and sign books, and doing this scratches my poor old pen. I can, I know, get it repolished, but then it would only get scratched again. Why bother?

There is, however, another, more serious problem. Over the years I have used my Churchill a lot. Recently, I was researching a new character in the Devon and Exeter Institution, and had to write ten pages of A4. To do that, I had to refill the pen twice. Fortunately I had my travelling inkwell from Visconti with me, and that was enough to keep me going, but it caused a certain amount of frustration. There should, I felt, be a better way of working. I ought to be able to find a pen with a larger capacity. Not an eyedropper, because that is a surefire way to acquire smudges and stained fingers, but a pen with significantly more capacity than a standard piston or converter pen.

For me, as a serious writer, such a pen was essential. That was why I began to look for a pen that would fulfil my requirements, and  because I was looking at Cult Pen’s site, idly looking at the newer versions of my Visconti Travelling Inkwell, I found myself staring at their Homo Sapiens.

I should state here that my version is the Bronze model. This is different to the Steel model, which has a different filling mechanism (please see the Note at the bottom of this review).

The Homo Sapiens is a good size. For me, it fits the hand perfectly. I don’t like to cap my pens - mainly because I always worry that capping will scratch the barrel - and without the cap, the Homo Sapiens sits comfortably on the web between thumb and forefinger.

Its weight is well balanced. It is nothing like as heavy as, say, my Michael Jecks Conway Stewart, but it’s a little more than my old Churchill, which is a little over light for my taste. And here I should mention the material it is made of. 

The adverts make a lot of this. It’s composed of a mixture of lava and, I have read, some form of resin or rubber. Some say it is basaltic lave from Etna, some say it is 50% lava. I don’t know and I care even less. I would imagine that lava alone would make for a cold and highly brittle material. This isn’t. Whatever it is that bonds the lava in this pen, it is lovely. It is instantly warm to the touch, and has a rock-hard feel. However, after carrying it in my shirt pocket, I was appalled to see scratches all over the cap. And not small ones, either, but large, silvery blotches smeared all over it. Mortified to have damaged my beautiful new pen, I rubbed the marks and was delighted to see them disappear. Later I realised that the shirt I’d been wearing had a hidden zip-pocket inside the main pocket, and it was the metal zip that had made those marks - not because the metal had marked the pen, but because the pen had rubbed and eroded the metal zip!

The feel is good, the robustness is a delight. The adverts say that it won’t be affected by heat up to too hot to touch, and it is certainly rock-hard. This pen will not be damaged in normal use. I will never have to worry about scratches. However, some people may not like the matte effect. I do. There is one other aspect which I adore. Under very bright lamps or in sunlight, the pen glitters. There are tiny flecks of mica, so it seems, within it. 

When you first look at the pen, the material appears bland. It is not black, but more a kind of very deep grey. Depending upon the light, it can appear to be a tinted with blue or brown - it reminds me a little of the deep black of my old Bernese Mountain Dog, an almost black, but with hints of brown. Either way, it most certainly is not pure black.

Even with the matte appearance of the lava mix, the pen itself is not a dull-looker. With two bands of bronze on the cap, a third, larger band on the barrel, which holds the words “Homo Sapiens”, and a spacer at the end, this pen looks glorious. The clip too is made of bronze, and has the distinctive Visconti curve. Apparently this is made to emulate the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, where Visconti is based. I've never been there (sadly), so I can't vouch for that. It does look, I think, elegant - but that's not the point. My only concern with a clip is, that it’s strongly sprung to guarantee that I won’t lose the pen (as I did with a Graf von Faber Castell Perfect Pencil some months ago, which slipped from my pocket). I was pleased to find that the spring behind the clip is certainly strong enough to hold this pen in the pocket. I have worn it in my pocket every day for about the last six weeks and have never had a concern about it falling out, even with thin shirt pocket material.

I should just note here that the bronze is not lacquered or treated in any way. The bronze discolours or, as the salesmen like to say, “develops a patina over time”. In the past, I understand Visconti did provide a cleaning cloth with the early pens, but they don’t any more. However, I confess I rather like the discolouration. It makes the clip look distinctive, and I think makes the pen look more like the working tool it is. It isn’t a pretty Mont Blanc or Yard-o-Led: this is a functional writer’s workhorse. There is one thing that intrigues me, however, and that is that the clip and bands are supposed to be all bronze. Yet it is only the main pocket clip that tarnishes. All the bands on the cap and barrel seem to be unaffected. This could be because they are all handled more regularly, I suppose, but I'd have thought that the flat top surface of the clip would also be rubbed regularly and wear away the patina. I have no axe to grind here, but I thought it was interesting.

Another thing I really, really like about the Homo Sapiens is the opening mechanism. 

Yes, most people will look at me like a twit for saying that, but this is just a delight to use. Most pens, obviously, use a simple screw thread or a push-fit. My Cross pens are all push-fit now. In the past, they used a strong spring to clip the cap to the body, but in recent years they have moved to a simple inner sheath of plastic that grabs the section. This seems fine, until you go to a black tie dinner and the pen falls out of its cap in your jacket, as I learned to my embarrassment. I don't trust plastic inner sleeves any more. 

A screw is safer, but it has the disadvantage of taking time to open. I know this is a small matter, but there are times when it’s an irritant to have to turn the barrel one and a half or two times just to remove the cap.

The Visconti’s system is a kind of cross between a bayonet and an interrupted screw. In the cap is a spring-loaded cylinder. As you push the section of the pen inside, this cylinder pushes against the section. On the outside of the section you can see geometric slots cut at an angle. In the cap itself there are lugs that match them. Thus to close the pen, you push in the section, and twist 1/5th of a turn clockwise. To remove the cap, you push in and rotate it 1/5th of a turn anticlockwise. It’s quick, convenient, and a delight to use. I have seen one review that claimed this was a failing in the pen, because he found the pen kept uncapping itself in his pocket. I can only say this is not a problem I’ve experienced.

So, getting down to the nitty gritty, how does it write? It is deliciously smooth and silky. I love my Conway Stewarts, and I would not say this is dramatically better, but the nib (a medium) is very soft to use, and lays down a reliable, clear line without  ever skipping. It starts as soon as it is laid to the paper, and so far hasn’t failed once. Even when writing for extended periods, it just keeps on going.

The nib is a curious one: it’s made of palladium, which is one of the few metals, like gold, which is valued in carats. Unlike gold, it is a slightly firmer metal, and for that reason the nibs are made of 23 carat palladium. That should mean that the nib will be even more resistant to corrosion than many gold nibs, apparently. Since I regularly clean my pens it won’t be a problem. The thing I really like most about the pen is that there is a great amount of variability in the thickness of the line. It's not a flex pen, but I do like to use inks that give shading, and I write (I guess) a little harder on the downstroke than sideways. This nib, without effort, gives me an almost stub-effect on my writing. It is purely because of this that I am writing a little more slowly than before. It is just a delight to use. The Conway Stewarts are good pens, with gorgeous nibs, but I do prefer this. 

However, as well as writing smoothly and beautifully, the best thing for me is, it keeps on writing. The bronze version has a wonderful “powerfiller” mechanism inside. This is an odd system to me. If I get the details wrong here, I apologise, but it's worth trying to explain. So, as far as I can make out from my researches: the barrel contains a cylinder with parallel sides. At the bottom, near the nib, these sides flare. Inside the cylinder is a piston, fully sealed, which slides up and down the cylinder. To fill it, you hold the nib in ink, and pull up on the end cap. It pulls on a titanium rod that draws the piston up. That does nothing to draw up ink, though. The ink is pulled in when you push the piston down. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but as you press the rod back into the pen’s barrel, the pistol is creating a vacuum behind it. As it reaches the flare in the cylinder, the vacuum is released, and sucks ink up into the void.

Some people have got very confused with this. Personally, I love it. I will have to measure the precise quantity of ink that it draws, but it is a lot more than my old cartridge-converter pens - probably about double their capacity. Certainly I haven’t been able to run it dry yet while writing, and fortunately it works superbly well with my Visconti Travelling Inkwell.

There is one last thing I must mention. When I received my pen, I was delighted to see that instead of the Visconti logo in the top of the cap, Cult Pens had taken the time to replace it with my initials. Visconti has a wonderful system called the “my pen” system, whereby the cap can be personalised to every owner in this way. You can have either initials, a semi-precious stone, or signs of the zodiac. It’s entirely up to you. That little touch for me, added to the appeal enormously.

So, in short, it is a highly robust pen, constructed from material that is thoroughly scratch and heat resistant, strong and robust. The nib works beautifully - it is as near perfection as I have yet found. I find the appearance very attractive and interesting - there really is nothing quite like it. The ink reservoir is much larger capacity than others I have tried. I really like the system for removing the cap, the strength of the cap’s clip, and the overall weight and balance.

For anyone who writes a lot and who is looking for a solid, reliable pen for everyday use, I would happily recommend the Homo Sapiens.
You can see it here: http://www.cultpens....mo-Sapiens.html
I should add here that I am writing a weekly diary piece for Cult Pens over on their website at www.cultpens.com/blog and that they are sponsoring my writing. However, this review is based on my own use over six weeks and my own opinions. I hope the review is some help to others considering new pens.  

 

NOTE: All the comments above are specifically related to the Homo Sapiens oversized pen in bronze. The models in steel and the shorter pens do not use the wonderful powerfiller system, but instead use a simple piston filler. This will, I am sure, be plenty adequate for people who only want a pen for occasional note-taking or shorter writing, but for people like me who need more capacity, I’d recommend the bronze oversize every time.

 

NOTE 2: Apologies for the lack of photographs. When uploading, none of the photos loaded. If I can figure out a cure, I will add them later!

Edited by Writer01, 10 May 2013 - 09:27.

@MichaelJecks
http://about.me/Michael.Jecks/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtD9U9jSDEjaJsfz7meEK9Q When in doubt, I'll always have a Bernese Mountain dog or a Ridgeback

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#2 Soer

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:37

What a wonderfull story and review. :D

I hope you enjoy the pen, I am also a owner of a bronze model. :thumbup:



#3 Writer01

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 09:10

I have to admit, I just adore this pen. It's with me every day, and I cannot imagine leaving the house without it. If I could have one improvement, it would be a second HS with the 1.3 stub for the added elegance - but to be honest, I don't really care. This pen writes so well, I'm just over the moon with it. Hope you're enjoying yours too!


@MichaelJecks
http://about.me/Michael.Jecks/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtD9U9jSDEjaJsfz7meEK9Q When in doubt, I'll always have a Bernese Mountain dog or a Ridgeback

#4 Namo

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 14:15

Great story, nice review, thank you! I do have similar problems, and I thought that a Danitrio Densho was the solution. I really hate refilling when writing.


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#5 koofle

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 16:02

You have written one of the most engrossing walls of text I have read in quite a while!  Thank you for sharing your story and bringing this pen to my attention.


I do weekly informal video reviews of pens/papers/inks in the style of my silly written reviews at the <a class='bbc_url' href='http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYpvSpwJuaT0OxsxhzM1e7w'>Inquisitive Quill youtube.</a><p>I am also very active on <a class='bbc_url' href=https://www.instagram.com/inquisitivequill/>instagram.</a>

#6 Writer01

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 18:36

Great story, nice review, thank you! I do have similar problems, and I thought that a Danitrio Densho was the solution. I really hate refilling when writing.

Ach, I really hate having to refill when I'm in the middle of something. I've got to the age where, if I stop to take apart a pen, refill, clean it (then usually tidy up the blotches of ink on my finger) I'll have forgotten the flow of my thinking and have to go back over the previous fifteen minutes of thought before I pick up the thread again. Now I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to crack on, and cut back refilling to only once a day maximum. That, for me, is a huge relief!


@MichaelJecks
http://about.me/Michael.Jecks/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtD9U9jSDEjaJsfz7meEK9Q When in doubt, I'll always have a Bernese Mountain dog or a Ridgeback

#7 Writer01

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 18:38

You have written one of the most engrossing walls of text I have read in quite a while!  Thank you for sharing your story and bringing this pen to my attention.

I'm really grateful to you. Writing a review was not something I was looking forward to, never having tried one before. Thanks for the comments - makes the effort worthwhile!


@MichaelJecks
http://about.me/Michael.Jecks/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtD9U9jSDEjaJsfz7meEK9Q When in doubt, I'll always have a Bernese Mountain dog or a Ridgeback

#8 Rebel

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 16:52

Consider the price tag, this is a dream pen for me! If it writes as good as it looks, the experience of writing with one should be sublime indeed!

 

 

Visconti%20Homo%20Sapiens%20Steel%20Oves



#9 Writer01

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 13:41

Consider the price tag, this is a dream pen for me! If it writes as good as it looks, the experience of writing with one should be sublime indeed!

 

 

Visconti%20Homo%20Sapiens%20Steel%20Oves

Oh, it is, believe me. I'd stick to bronze, though. Much though I like the clean look of the stainless steel, the smaller ink tank does make it less relevant for me. But then, I do need a big reservoir for my work!


@MichaelJecks
http://about.me/Michael.Jecks/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtD9U9jSDEjaJsfz7meEK9Q When in doubt, I'll always have a Bernese Mountain dog or a Ridgeback

#10 MarneM

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 16:15

What a delightful review, thank you. This pen has been on my wish list for quite some time, and reading this has only increased my desire to have one. :-)
"Wer schweigt, stimmt zu."

#11 stevekolt

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 17:30

Nice and thorough write up, thanks! I have both the Bronze age Maxi, and the Steel Age Midi, both with fine nibs, and love them both.



#12 Joe in Seattle

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 17:39

Mine is the bronze with EF nib. Definitely among the 3 best writers I have, and its FUN to write with. I know of no other way to describe it.
"how do I know what I think until I write it down?"

#13 Korybas

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 11:45

Thank you Writer01 for this review! I appreciate very much reviews that have the personal tone yours has.

 

I also have the Homo Sapiens Bronze, and I got it when the pen came out, back in 2010.

 

For the first 6 months I wrote with the original M nib, which was an amazing nib, juicy and smooth. Then, wanting more line variation, I decided to buy the 1.3mm stub nib which is, frankly, a dream. Since then, the Homo Sapiens is regularly on my rotation. Still have the M nib, but I do not think it will ever go on the Homo Sapiens again - not after trying the stub!

 

I recommend this pen, emphatically. I am very glad that I got this pen when I did, its price has moved up from what I hear.


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#14 vondauster

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 18:13

Wonderful write-up. 

 

I was fortunate enough to attend an event with Dante del Vecchio, the owner of Visconti, and actually bought my bronze HS from him. He is a class act all the way, and just a wonderful person to get to know. 

 

The HS is workhorse pen that manages to never be boring. Love mine.

 

Will


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Will von Dauster

#15 Heliotrope

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 14:13

Thanks for the detailed review.  I definitely want the Homo Sapiens Bronze.  I saw one in a local B&M, and I love the feel of the barrel and the bronze patina.



#16 RayOski1

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 00:02

It's a great pen.  One of my top 3 (lol).



#17 jameswatts

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 00:58

Mr. Jecks,

Greatly enjoyed your review. My wife bought me a bronze HS for our 25th anniversary, and I agree wholeheartedly that it is an exceptional pen -- one of my all time favorites. However I've had some trouble getting what I would think is a full tank of ink with a conventional ink bottle, which makes me think a Traveling Inkwell is in my future.

Again, thanks.

#18 Tas

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Posted 21 December 2013 - 09:57

What a beautiful review. Thank you.

 

Your review not only helped me make a decision on my Homo Sapiens Bronze purchase - which is under the tree in a box, but because it's under the tree in a box your piece is helping me to visualise it until Christmas morning. :puddle:

 

Sad I know, but I'm soooo excited.



#19 mrchan

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Posted 22 December 2013 - 09:21

I've heard some people complain of this pen sweating ink at the site of the section due to what it was made out of and it's ability to a certain degree to absorb moisture..Dipping in d nib fully to draw in ink is unavoidable, do you guys find your fingers a little inky at some stage afterwards?
Fountain pens are like weapons. They just make your pocket bleed so much.

#20 raging.dragon

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Posted 22 December 2013 - 09:36

If I recall correctly, the first few batchs of HS pens had a problem with ink from the feed seeping through the porus material and getting on users' fingers; however, this was resolved long ago.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: visconti, homo sapiens, michael jecks, author, writing



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