Visconti Homo Sapiens Lava Bronze with 18k gold nib
Many excellent reviews of the Visconti HS Lava series can be found here on FPN so there’s not much point in doing that again. Since I purchased a brand-new HS last week, I will limit this brief review mostly to the 18k gold nib that succeeded the 23k Pd nibs, on fit and finish and on writing characteristics.
^—The HS Midi and its new companion
FIT AND FINISH
When the Lava series originally came on the market there were some reports about poor quality control, such as loose cap bands. A few years ago I bought a HS Midi and found the quality of that pen to be excellent. The same is true for my new full-size pen. Every aspect of fit and finish appears to be absolutely perfect. The pen inspires total confidence. Unscrewing the blind cap and using the plunger feels like military-grade quality. We’ll see how well the pen holds up over longer periods of intensive use, but so far I would put the quality of this pen on par with other top-quality pens in this price range - and perhaps even better. When I bought it at Appelboom, I did a direct comparison with a MB 149 F, an Aurora 88 F and a Scribo Feel F and spent some time with each of these top-tier pens. All three of these have excellent nibs and are of very high quality, but the Aurora feels vulnerable in the hand (I was worried about breaking it from the moment I picked it up) and the Scribo’s material felt cheap to my hand (even though it is a truly top-notch pen). The 149 exudes quality but is too large for me. To the best of my judgement, the Visconti stood head and shoulders above these pens in terms of fit, finish and how the material feels in the hand.
^—The pen in all its glory.
Visconti switched from their in-house 23k Pd nibs to 18k gold nibs insourced from Bock. Ever since I bought my HS Midi with 23k Pd nib, I have been deeply impressed by it. When I heard about the switch to Bock nibs, my initial response wasn’t enthousiastic. So I tested the full-size HS very thoroughly before committing to it.
Normally I would have picked the EF, but since I’m currently dealing with some issues which make writing difficult I chose the F. So, how good is it...? I find it to be an utterly brilliant nib. It eclipsed the nibs on MB 149 F and the Aurora 88 F that I A/B’d it with. The Scribo Feel F also had a very, very, very impressive nib, comparable in quality and refinement to the HS. Of course I also compared it to the 23k Pd ‘Dreamtouch’ F nib on my HS Midi. Both nibs have a pencil-like feel, which is much more pronounced on the 23k Pd nib. The 18k is smoother, more refined (dare I say exquisite?) and a little bit softer. Both nibs offer wonderful tactile response and hand control, which is very important to me. The 23k Pd F writes a significantly wider line than the 18k F, the former edging towards Western M and the latter edging towards Western EF (depending on ink choice, but more on that later). I’m delighted to find a Western F that truly is an F! To summarize, this is a very impressive nib and an utter joy to write with.
^—A word about nib exchange. I’m not sure if the nib collar can be unscrewed from the section without the use of a special tool. In this photo, you can see two notches that seem to be intended for such a tool.
Early HS pens tended to be absolute firehoses and frequently needed to be tamed. Thankfully, that’s not the case with my HS Midi nor with this brandnew full-size HS. Wetness can be generous with some ink, but read on... it can also be dry!
I noticed that the wetness of this pen is independent of feed saturation. Visible ink between the fins doesn’t make the pen write any wetter. In other words, ink flow is regulated solely by the pressure between both tips of the tines. Contrary to most of my other modern pens, there usually is some visible ink between the fins, i.e. the feed is at least partially saturated most of the time.
In terms of wetness on the page, this pen is all over the place depending on ink choice. It was quite wet with Edelstein Moonstone and Pelikan 4001 Turquoise yet remarkably dry with Montblanc Royal Blue. The difference in wetness between these last two inks was really striking - it’s not subtle!
It’s interesting to combine these two observations. With every ink, the feed is at least partially saturated most of the time, so the nib always receives plenty of ink from the barrel. Therefore it is the nib itself which is sensitive to different inks, going from quite wet (P4001 Turquoise) to quite dry (MB Royal Blue).
Whether or not this is an advantage or a disadvantage is up to you. Personally, I like it because it allows me to ‘tune’ the pen by changing inks.
^—Comparison between the HS F, the HS Midi F and a Lamy Dialog 3 F. Inks: MB Royal Blue, Edelstein Moonstone, Sailor Jentle Blue.
If you like the design of the HS but you’re worried about QC issues and/or the 23k Pd nibs, then give this pen a try. Both on my HS Midi and the new full-size HS, the quality of the pens is excellent. And the new 18k nib is fantastic. The combination of a unique material, a striking design, top quality fit and finish and a truly wonderful nib make it worth the price of admission.