Hi everyone, this is my first attempt at a fountain pen review and I have decided to review the ASA Bheeshma which is a custom design that ASA pens has made based on my request. Since this is my first effort, please go easy on the brickbats. Constructive criticisms however are always welcome.
The story of Bheeshma has to start with the discussion one day that we were having in the “Fountain Pen Pals India” WhatsApp group when someone introduced me to a picture of a Scriptorium pen in Lava Explosion blank. I was stunned as to how amazingly pretty the material was and how beautiful the pen looked. Without knowing it then, I was smitten and hooked.
Days passed and my urge to possess one went up in leaps and bounds. Unable to resist any further, I reached out to Eugene Soto of muttblanks.com to enquire about blanks in larger than five inch sizes for kitless pens. He suggested using two five inch blanks or he could make seven inch blanks as a custom order. I am not sure why, but I chose the second option. Maybe, in my mind I thought since I am venturing into something new then why not stretch the envelope. Anyways, after 3 excruciating weeks of waiting, the blanks finally managed to pass through the hoops of transatlantic flight and customs clearance to land up in my mailbox.
The next challenge was what pen to design for the blanks. Given that I had opted for small seven inch blanks, a large pen with clips and all paraphernalia was out of question since we simply didn’t have enough material. Fellow group members and FPNers Vaibhav (@mehandiratta) and Pradeep (@pdg84) chipped in and we decided to make an adaptation of the Onyx design that Pradeep had but with some modifications to the specifications. Vaibhav was kind enough to make a CAD based on the design ideas and the outline of the pen was ready. He even christened the concept Bheeshma based on the powerful thespian from the epic Mahabharata.
When it came to the question of the pen being made, there was nobody else I could think of other than Mr. Subramaniam of ASA Pens. Not only had he helped me gain knowledge on all pen related matters, but I knew I could trust him to look after my dream and nurture it like as if it is his own. So off went the blocks to him to get turned (pun intended) into a pen.
The design is inspired by the Onyx which in itself is inspired by the classic Nakaya Piccolo design. This is a classical design that starts as a cigar shape, tapering down towards the end filial and terminates with small conical end pieces at each side. The cap is flushed with the barrel with a small step down design where the cap and barrel meet.
The section design has been patterned on the ASA I-Can / I-Will which in my experience is extremely comfortable. The section gradually tapers from the barrel towards the nib before starting to flare out about 7mm to 8mm before it ends.
The design is clipless, i.e., doesn’t have a clip to put in your pocket and is also designed to be used unposted. This allows for a better control over determining the balance point and is set to provide comfortable writing for everyone.
Without further ado, I will let the pictures do the talking about the design.
Size and Balance
By classical norms this is a large sized pen at 147mm capped. But those of you are familiar with Indian handmade pens would recognize the fact that it can almost be passed off as a medium sized pen amongst its peers. Since the material used is very light, the barrel could be made a bit thicker and stronger without compromising on the weight or balance.
The pen is extremely well balanced and can easily provide comfortable writing for extended periods. The section design is the best in the business from ASA and that only adds to the pleasurable writing experience. Please note that the pen has been designed to be used uncapped and that is exactly how I have used it.
Originally the pen was designed to accommodate a #5 Jowo nib. But once it was made Mr. Subramaniam insisted that a #6 Jowo/WIN unit would be best fit for it. I am a sucker for large nibs and happily agreed to the recommendation. We finally paired the pen with a dual tone #6 Jowo steel nib with Medium tip.
I am committed to using pens that accept standard international cartridges and compatible convertors. I find them to provide the best proposition around value, system longevity, convenience and widespread compatibility. Unless there is a compelling justification to do things differently, all my pens tend to have the cartridge convertor mechanism. The ASA Bheeshma is no exception to this rule and has the aforesaid filling mechanism.
The build quality of this pen is impeccable. The quality of polish is excellent. Given that it is a handmade pen, there are some fine traces of tool marks but they are only visible under minute inspection and the overall build is not much different from a normal injection moulded pen. I am given to understand that normally Lava Explosion or similar aluminite material benefits from a lacquer coating to highlight the shine. I had requested for no such coating and yet I am very happy with the lustre which is evident in the pictures.
Mr Subramaniam doesn’t profess to be a nibmeister but on ample occasions he has given ample hints that he does tune some nibs. I am not sure what he has done here but this nib is magic. It is incredibly smooth yet not glassy and leaves a nice wet line on the paper. I had inked the pen with Bril Violet ink to match the ink colour with the pen colour and the combination has worked real well. There are no skips or false starts and the impression it leaves on the paper is of a nice smooth medium line rich in ink. Overall, a superb writer and amongst the better Jowo nibs that I have in my collection.
Price and Value
Since I had procured the blanks myself, Mr Subramaniam charged me just for the nib and for making the pen. The cost is comparable to the prices of recently launched pens of the ASA Stellar collection. Personally, I found that incredible value since he had to disrupt his normal production schedule and incur significant downtime to get this pen made.
This section is for those of you who thrive on hard numbers. Unfortunately I do not have access to a Vernier calliper or other precision instruments. You would have to settle for the approximate measurements I made using a normal rules and my (admittedly weak) eyes.
Length (capped) – 147 mm
Length (uncapped) – 143 mm
Length (cap) – 62 mm
Length (section) – 27 mm
Maximum width – 15.5 mm
Minimum width – 12.5 mm
Maximum section width – 12.5 mm
Minimum section width – 9.5 mm
I am extremely happy with this pen. I started with an abstract desire and my friends and ASA have given it a concrete and excellent shape. Everybody who have written with it have only been impressed with it. It is an excellent design that is very balanced, comfortable, light and ideal for long writing sessions. It would be great if ASA considers bringing it to the market as a regular product.