Name of pen: Object (Fountain Pen)
Colour/color of pen: Red (also known as Dark Red and Ruby Red.)
Recommended Price: £30 (UK)
I was looking for some reasonably inexpensive fountain pens to see how I'd get on with them - whether I'd catch the enthusiasm emanating from these forums, and whether I'd then eventually be ready to graduate to a Sailor Hanzi. On a two day budget fountain pen buying binge, I came across a local stationery shop (South East England, UK) selling the Tombow Object for a third off the list price - score! I have no idea whether that price was intentional or a huge mistake that worked in my favour, but in situations like that just get in there and quit whining!
This here is a review of the Tombow Object Fountain Pen in red because:
1) There isn't a specific Tombow Object FP review in the reviews section yet
2) brh wanted one
So, just for brh (and everyone else reading...)
0. The Tombow Object Fountain Pen
Tombow is a Japanese company founded in 1913 under the name of Harunosuke to make pencils. The company changed to the Tombow Brand name in 1927, designing and developing innovative products (as stationery goes), winning the company a goodly number of awards in the process.
The Tombow Object is a relatively inexpensive modern pen designed by Kazunori Katami who holds a number of patents and awards for innovations such as the Tombow Zoom 414, the Tombow 2.0 lead holder (for pencils) and a design for a correction tape dispenser.
Selling points for the Object are: an aluminium construction; a wide range of colours; a "harmonious" shape with optimal balance; surface finish and comfort. The Tombow Japan site lists three fountain pen nib sizes (fine, medium, broad), the European site lists six sizes (extra fine, fine, medium, broad, oblique.)
The barrel and cap are made of anodized (to give a wide range of colours), brushed (to give a matte finish) aluminium (for a light weight and robustness.) The Object comes in a choice of 10 colours - see the Tombow Object page at Andy's Pens for images of the complete range.
However, this is where things get complicated - different shops give different names for the colours which could cause confusion. Here's a very inexhaustive example:
(UK) (UK) (Paris) (Sweden) (Japan)
Petrol Blue Petrol Blue Petrol Blue Petrol Blue
Golden Orange Gold Golden Orange Golden Orange
Blue Indigo Blue Sapphire Blue Sapphire Blue
Red Red Dark Red Ruby Red
Turquoise Turquoise Turquoise
Purple Purple Respberry* Amethyst Purple Amethyst Purple
Lime Lime Lime Green
Glacier Blue Ice Blue Glacier Blue
CD Black Black Matt Black Black Black
CD Aluminium Steel Chrome Silver
*I think that's meant to be Raspberry...
** Deskstore lists a Pale Pink Object FP, but no one else admits that it exists. There is a pastel pink in the rollerball range so it may be a mistake on the Deskstore site.
***The Tombow Japan site cites 10 colours then proceeds to only show 7 of them.
At least the names for Petrol Blue and Turquoise are consistent!
There also exists the Tombow Object 202 range, which has the same shape as the Object but is constructed out of acrylic resin rather than aluminium. These are ballpoint pens only so if anyone ever offers you a Tombow Object 202, just say no!
1. First Impressions
The shop where I found the Tombows had a restricted selection of colours for the fountain pen versions (Golden Orange, Petrol Blue and one labelled as purple but after long deliberation, it seems to closer to red - particularly as it doesn't look anything like the purple Tombow Objects shown on the Tombow website.) One of the difficulties of getting a Tombow Object (apart from finding them in a shop in the first place) is picking the colour. I went for the red verion out of the ones left in stock - the Golden Orange looked a bit too shouty.
The red is definitely an odd and ambiguous hue. Placed next to a red object, the pen looks violet - not as purple as the ones shown on the Tombow site but certainly not red. Placed next to a purple object and the pen looks more reddish. Placed next to the screen showing images of the Objects, the pen is definitely closer to the red than the purple. I'm confused! Here's the very same pen next to red things then next to purple things. Tell me I'm not going crazy!
I liked the idea that the Objects came in variety of colours, were made of brushed aluminium instead of resin/plastic, and had an interesting barrel shape. However, I was a bit concerned with two things before buying:
-I had no idea what the nib was made of
-The shop only had medium nibs and I'd have preferred a finer nib.
But it was a bargainous £20 ($40) so pffft to those concerns and a big hello to impulse buying. It was either that or a Parker Frontier Stainless Steel, and the Tombow looked more fun.
The Object comes in a dinky black tin box which is small and cute, although I can see it being prone to being dented, scratched and looking messy if not treated carefully. The tin box had no other protection or packaging. I have no idea whether that was the way it comes - it was just taken off the shelf and handed over once my bank balance had been depleted.
The pen sits snugly in cut foam within the box and comes with nothing else - no instruction book, no accessories, no convertor, no warranty, no history, no polishing cloth, nothing. There are two standard mini cartridges within the pen - one filled with blue ink of unknown origin, one an empty placeholder. The packaging/presentation is nicely understated and well suited for a gift - you can confidently send it to someone without wondering whether the packaging looks hideous and covered in manufacturer's blurbiage.
*Apparently there was meant to be an international guarantee and a gift box in there somewhere too, judging by J-san's Object Zoom 101 review and descriptions of the pen from online retailers.
2. Appearance & Finish
Yum! Brushed aluminium - just like an aluminium Apple laptop, except in reddish/purple, not Apple and not a laptop. The brushed aluminium gives a matte look and adds some texture to aid grip when holding (not using) the pen. Being a relatively straightforward method, the anodizingification process gives a very good and even finish. The pen looks unique, attractive and likely to get attention when bandied around in public.
There was a sticker with the nib size on the barrel which left a gunky residue after being pulled off, but a bit of rubbing soon got rid of that. The anodized aluminium lends itself well to repelling smudges and blemishes.
Other brushed aluminium items I've used regularly have withstood moderate abuse so I'm expecting the Tombow will still look reasonably like a pen after a bit of usage - as long as it doesn't get dropped on a hard surface, scraped against another metal object (keys and coins - bad!) or cast into a fiery pit of doom. There is a scary metal-scrapey noise when the cap is posted, so posting is probably not the way to go. Also, the posted cap is not entirely flush with the pen and is looks slightly uneven, which is a psychological niggle.
The barrel and cap are well constructed, giving a satisfying click when the pen is capped. The barrel has a relatively (out of the way) Tombow logo below the clip (Towbow written with the w consisting of two filled in triangles), and Japan written on the back. Initially I was thinking "Ugh, logo, bleah!", but now I'm thinking it does give some character - a plain pen with no other distinguishing features would have given it a cheap knockoff could-have-come-from-anywhere look.
It's not all good news though - the capped cap moves ever so slightly when wiggled up and down. You don't get that sort of behaviour on a Mont Blanc!
Overall I like the look. The Object looks like an interesting, er, object which makes a difference from a the myriad black resin/stainless steel pens in existence. I'd say eye-catching but that would be messy from the medical point of view.
The Object is brushed aluminium - oops, said that already. The pen itself is, hmm, how do I describe this... imagine a tube with rounded ends, with an ever so slightly fatter and shorter tube wrapped around the middle, and a gentle gradation between the two. Er, or look at the photograph instead...
The clip is a black, springy metal affair (apparently matt black lacquered brass, or tool steel depending on whose description you're reading) which is quite strong at the moment but I can see it getting bent out of shape if put under too much stress. The length of the pen quoted on various websites is:
-Capped length: 5 7/16 inches (that's 13.8cm)
-Posted length: 6 1/4 inches (15.875 cm)
-Grip diameter 0.39 inches (1cm)
To that I'll add the approximate girth and width of the sections as :
-Fatter middle section: girth = (about) 2.4 inches/ 60 mm, width = 0.5 inches/14 mm
-Thinner end sections: girth = (about) 1.5 inches/40 mm, width = 0.4 inches/10 mm
No weight for the pen has been listed - I'm going to need a delicate pair of scales to get you that information.
The pen feels light (it's an aluminium tube - with the lightness being a selling point.) The pen feels unbalanced when posted, so there's another vote for leaving the cap off when writing.
The barrel has a good texture compared to a yet-another-tacky-plastic-pen feel, but the resin nib section grip feels a bit slippery, even with the ribbed section which I'd have preferred moved slightly further from the nib. The issue (with my hands at least) seems to be that the grip section is too rounded and pushes my fingers forward, meaning I need a more pinched (and less comfortable) finger position to feel in control. Either that or I need to relax my fingers more. This might change once I get used to the pen.
*The precarious feeling of the grip has actually been beneficial - I'm still shaking the nasty ballpoint pen habits of my youth.
One thing I've found is that a spare cartridge in the pen rattles around slightly, grr. This could be caused by using rubbishy store own-brand cartridges (WHSmith, UK.) The rattling wasn't noticed out of the box with the included cartridges - these were unmarked but Tombow do have their own ink cartridges from Japan so this might be the only sample of Tombow ink to play with for while.
4. Nib Design & Performance
I ended up with the medium nib because that's all that was available. The nib itself doesn't give much information about what it is - there's Tombow and the nib size written on it and that's all. I severely expect this is a stainless steel nib but there's no indication on whether it is tipped - there was no documentation with the pen. Oh, Mr Internet says stainless steel nib with iridium point. The Tombow Japan site also says "The fountain pen with German made nib (F only) and roller-ball models are presently unavailable in Japan" which is so ambiguous it could mean that only the fine point nibs are German made, or the nibs are made by someone from Germany operating anywhere in the world, rather than all Object Fountain Pen nibs are made in Germany.
Being stainless steel, the nib is in the Rigid Nail category. Put a few flights on it and you can throw it at a dartboard. Sharpen the edge and you can peel potatoes with it.
The feed is a regular sized, ABS plastic injected resin moulded screw out thingy. Once flushed and the first cartridge inserted, it took a bit of coaxing to get the nib writing - the cartridge needed to be squeezed gently to pump-prime the feed. Once that was done, the pen worked without any problems.
The Object writes smoothly, although I can't say how smoothly compared to other pens (must.buy.more.pens.) If wetness of a nib means there's a noticeable moisture trail immediately after the nib has moved across the paper, then the Object is a wet writer.
*This is supported on the "Anyone Have Tombow FP?" board, where the consensus for how the Object writes is that they it is a smooth but wet writer, and the nib marginally finer than European nib size equivalents.)
The nib occasionally missed the first downstroke when writing - but that might be because I'm still getting used to fountain pens and haven't figured out a good writing position/angle/pressure.
I'm certainly not disappointed - the pen does fountain pen-ny things and it's certainly better than the other FP pens I've used recently - however those have been no-name bits of tat used for target practice.
The lines on the medium nib seem wide (for my scribbly handwriting at least) but about the same width compared to other medium FP nibs I've used. I haven't got anything to compare with in terms of heavy/medium/stingy flow but I'll post an update if anything turns up.
I'm quite satisfied with the writing performance, but not falling over with excitement - I'd need to use a few more fountain pens for comparison purposes. I'd have been more satisfied with a fine point and black ink, so it might be my bias preventing me from gushing about the Object's performance.
5. The Filling System
Ahh, no fun here. Plain international-sized cartridge-fill out of the box, although a convertor is available. Hmm, that was a short section. Meanwhile, on to...
The pen was new and cost £19.99 (in the UK), which is a bargainous price over the usual £29.99-ish prices seen online. I got the Object at a local bricks and mortar stationery store which was a very unexpected and pleasant surprise. On second thoughts, a small local shop can take more chances with a range of funky coloured fountain pens than a large chain on a "pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap" philosophy.
A 33% discount? Yep, that was certainly worth it. I was on the verge of getting a Parker Frontier Stainless Steel at £18.99 but the Tombow looked much more interesting and unique since hardly any other shops in an extensive area would just have these pens sitting around on a shelf ready for purchase. However, I now have to get a Parker Frontier and/or a Lami Al-Star to compare how they write, gahh! Those two don't have swish tins as packaging either, pffft!
So far, the Object has been the most expensive FP I've bought, but that's not saying much - I'm experimenting with some *really* cheap stuff right now!
In terms of buying experience, the shop was a general stationery store and not equipped for serious fountain pen questions, so it was a very transactional purchase. The overall buying experience was unproblematic. Shop: in. Shelf: point. Pen: inspect. Money: give. Pen: take. Shop: exit. Seeing and handling the pen before buying helped a lot - unfortunately that's not possible with the vast majority of FPs in a small town, or pretty much anywhere outside a specialist pen store in the UK since pens at this price range usually get entombed in a hand gouging plastic blister pack.
7. Overall Opinion/Conclusion
-The Tombow Object is a bright funky pen, pretty to look at, nice to hold, attractively presented, good value-to-visual-impact ratio, likely to get attention. Not as much attention as a Maki-e pen would, but it's certainly more unique than other pens at this price range. The colourful barrel gives the Object a bit of personality and makes it a fun pen for everyday use.
-I prefer the look and (tactile) feel of the Object to expensive black resin pens (well, certainly the Mont Blanc here.) Then again, I've chosen a digital camera based on the funky case colour, rather than whether it had eleventy gazillion mega pixels.
-The Object was certainly worth the princely sum of £19.99. If it all goes horribly wrong, I don't feel like I've lost out - I can give up lunch for a week if I'm really desperate. If I had to choose between all the other available pens in the vicinity in that price range, I'd still have gone for the Object. Yes the Lamy Al-Star is a well respected writer, yes I'd have a considerable sum left over for ink with the non-stainless steel Parker Frontier, yes there was a shedload of Platignum blister pack Fountain Pens at the very same shop but they all seemed so... so... normal! Yes I could have a bucketful of disposable fountain pens (or about 190 bulk-buy bic ballpoint pens...) but all of those and everything else just paled in comparison with the reddy/purpley goodness of an Object at a bargain price.
-I can't say it lived up to hype because this was an impulse buy and there was no advance hype. On the good side, that means I couldn't be disappointed since there were no expectations there. Clever, eh?
-If I could turn back the hands of time (to about 8 hours ago from the time of writing this) yep, I'd still buy the Object - I was attracted to it's shape and colour rather than the nib and writing quality *guilty look*. I'm still in the experimental novelty stage of playing around with lots of inexpensive fountain pens to decide whether to ascend the ziggurat of Fountain Pen collector insanity.
Three minor niggles I had occur on just about any inexpensive fountain pen:
-I'd really have preferred a fine nib, although that'd be unusual as a default in a pen in a local stationery shop in a small town.
-I'd really want to get hold of the the convertor - unfortunately it isn't included by default.
-It's a rigid stainless steel nib - although that's probably a good thing for a newbie still getting used to FPs!
One niggle was with the specific colour of the pen
-I first thought it was purple. The price ticket said it was purple. It really did look purple, just not the same purple as Tombow intended. Apparently it's red. Either this pen has a very very ambiguous hue, or I'm going colour blind!
One sort-of niggle is more due to inexperience:
-Writing experience seems average for a stainless steel nib (to me - with nothing much else to compare against.) The pen is functional and useable, but I'll continue to lust after a Sailor to fully comprehend buttery smooth writing nirvana, thank you very much.
One slightly more major niggle is more likely due to bad old habits:
-I'm still getting used to holding the pen for greater control, but this is more likely down to bad ballpoint pen habits than an inherent design problem with the Object.
-With a bit more settling in with the Tombow Object, I expect I'd be happy to go get another one, along with some fine point nibs, convertors and a decent black ink. At the very least, they're a perfect range for matching inks to pen colour. Yeah, that was quite a feeble reason...
-Even if I find I really don't like writing with the Object, it'll still stay in my motley collection because it looks and feels good. Besides, it's red/purple and I'll have a half decent chance of finding it on my desk.
- Overall, I'm totally happy with the Object. It's unusual, there are no major faults so far, it's functional for everyday use, it's a great starter pen, it's full of shiny red/purple goodness. And it'll certainly keep me going until I'm ready to progress to the next level of fountain pennage.
-MYU has a short review of the Tombow Object in the "Anyone Have Tombow FP?" board.
-HesNot in the Tombow FPs - US retailers: on-line? board liked the Object.
- A shiny new fine nib (without postage) apparently costs about 3/4 of the price I paid for the pen, bah!
-Oops, wrote Tombo instead of Tombow in the title! Shabby!
-Sailor *Hanzi*, hot Hamzi, sheesh!
-Changed all the references to a purple pen to a red/purple pen, and added explanations of why with pictures. Added a niggle about the ambiguous colour. Removed the two extra bandwidth stealing attachments that snuck in previously.
Edited by CosmicCat, 30 December 2007 - 23:11.