Name of pen: Love (Barry White Luuuuurve voice optional...)
Colour/colour of pen: Red (although not explicitly labelled on the packaging or on any website.)
Recommended price: £4.49 (UK)
The local high street chain stationery store (here in the UK) had their post-Christmas bargains out in force. Cunningly hidden amongst the various felt-tip pens and gaudy folders that no one wanted to buy all year were a stack of Inoxcrom Loves, reduced from £4.49 (~$9) to £2.99 (~$6) with a choice of red or purple. For a measly £2.49, I got the red version.
They're just like hot cross buns. One a'penny, two a'penny hot cross buns. Give them to your daughters, give them to your sons...
Inoxcrom are an international pen company founded in 1942 with headquarters in Barcelona, Spain. They have been making fountain pens since 1955, although there is no indication to show whether they make their own nibs.
They claim to be one of the most important firms in the world, although the Inoxcrom Love is an odd way to tell everyone else...
The Inoxcrom Love:
1. First Impressions; 2. Appearance and Finish; 3. Design/Size/Weight
The Inoxcrom Love is a tiny fountain pen, measuring 10.3 cm capped and 13.4 cm posted, with the diminutive size achieved by not adding any space for a spare cartridge. It's not much taller than a Fisher bullet with both pens capped, so that ought to put it firmly in the demi-sized pen category. The barrel is cylindrical with the cap sloped towards the clip, with a width of 11mm and girth of 34(ish) mm.
The cap and barrel are made of translucent plastic, covered with flowers, hearts, "I love you so much"s and "be mine forever"'s. Most tasteful! This is probably not the best FP to use in a high level executive board meeting...
The clip is transparent plastic moulded clip-on clip, so it can easily be removed from the pen. This however leaves a protruding bumps of plastic used to keep the clip aligned so you won't actually end up with a smooth pen by taking the clip off.
The pen comes in a plastic blister pack with a cardboard insert and an international sized cartridge within the pen. The front of the card is pink and enlarges the flower/heart/I love you pattern, with Inoxcrom written in bold letters along the right hand side. There's a graphic of a generic nib with the words "high quality", which is not terribly helpful really.
There were no instructions or accessories in the blister pack, and certainly no warranty. The price of the Inoxcrom Love is on par with the price of disposable fountain pens so the lack of extra goodies was expected.
The back of the card shows nine European languages that all (presumably) translate to "High quality nib for smooth and regular writing", along with the main Inoxcrom website and street/email addresses for local head offices. The packaging states the pen is made in Spain.
In the Love range available in the shop, there were red and purple versions. However, there were other similar looking pens in the Inoxcrom range with slightly different names but at the non-sale price of £4.49. For instance there's a blue version to look more boy-ish, and one with cartoon pictures of a dog and bone. There is also a chrome version with the packaging alluding to something vaguely car-like and costing £7.99, so it is possible to get one of these tiny pens without looking like you're having a midlife crisis and hankering for a long-lost youth.
As for the construction, the pen itself is sturdy, the cap itself is sturdy, but put them together and things get slack. A definite push is needed to cap the pen - for the first few times I didn't push hard enough, not realising that there was supposed to be a click when capping the pen.
Posting the pen went to the other extreme - the cap is wayyy too loose when posted - loose enough to just slide off again when writing. This represents a significant problem - the pen is too short to write with normally if it is not posted, but then the cap just falls off if it is posted. A different writing technique is needed where the pen sort of snuggles in-between the thumb and index finger, rather than resting on the fleshy groove. Then again, it might be perfect for the hand of an 8 year old.
Being a really light pen and small pen, there wasn't really an issue of balance. There was no point in posting the pen since the cap just fell off anyway, and the length of the pen needed a strange technique where the pen was held in place by the crook of the thumb/index finger, rather than resting on top of it.
The light weight and the whole plastic thing makes the pen seem fragile and will probably shatter if dropped on a stone floor from a great height - but at this price, getting a replacement pen is not a major issue.
4. Nib Design and Performance
The nib is a stainless steel affair, but no indication of whether it is tipped. I'm suspecting not and there's no evidence to suggest otherwise on the packaging or on the nib. There wasn't an indication of the nib size, and there certainly isn't a choice offered on this pen. The stroke width is about the same as the Tombow Object medium nib.
Writing is definitely toothy, but no big surprise there. The nib is slightly more flexible than the Tombow Object, but I haven't got anything else to compare against to say whether that still makes it a rigid nail or semi-flexy.
Performance is okay - the nib did take a while to get going fresh out of the blister pack, but so far hasn't shown any major showstopping issues. Flow seems to medium but a bit variable - there are times when the ink looks lighter or darker depending on whether the pen has just been uncapped or strokes are made at different speeds. Certainly when first used, the ink was darker but now the flow seems to have mostly settled down.
*This might also be because I'm using a cheap novelty ink in a fetching shade of pink.
**Which really doesn't show up well on a scan!
5. The Filling System
International sized cartridge and that's all. No convertor available (delivery of one alone would cost more then pen did...) Inoxcrom have their own range of international size ink cartridges which come in opaque white plastic casings with the bottom of the cartridge transparent to show the ink colour. I haven't tried the Inoxcrom ink yet.
£2.99 - low cost, high value for what you get. It does what it's supposed to do without any major flaws, and the small size could be a bonus depending on your needs. It's fine for messing about - you can throw in the rubbishiest ink for testing and not worry about ruining the pen. Yep, this is as close to a disposable, refillable pen as I can think of. Hmm, from that perspective, I'd say that's pretty impressive!
Overall buying experience was the same as buying a disposable Bic pen - the only big deliberation was which colour barrel to get. The good thing was the pen was surrounded by a range of other Inoxcrom pens, so it wasn't a no-name, one-off, fly-by-night, completely untrustworthy bit of tat. The £2.99 could be spent confidently without significant buyer's remorse afterwards - besides, it was cheaper than a packet of post-it notes.
7. Overall Opinion/Conclusion
Yep, this pen's okay. It's cheap and cheerful, it writes, it's a fountain pen and it's undeniably cute. It's not the bestest pen in the universe but that's to be expected at this end of the range.
Apart from funning around, this probably isn't the sort of pen to be brandishing in public if you have a reputation to maintain because of the dinky kids look. The size makes it not particularly suitable as a loaner (to an adult sized hand at least), so really that leaves using the pen for a novelty, for experimentation, as an emergency pen tucked somewhere unobtrusive in your bag/pocket, or as a throwaway present for anyone under the age of 14. Not that health and safety would agree with that idea.
For £2.99, I didn't feel I lost anything by buying one. I'd be happy to get another if there was one for sale and I desperately needed a fountain pen right then and there because I forgot to bring one with me.
Yes, there were niggles (particularly the loose fitting of the cap when posted and the minor variability of the ink flow) but at this price, these aren't huge issues. I got what I expected at the price range.
It's a pen I can happily pass on to others - if it breaks or gets damaged, no tears will be shed. I wouldn't put it in the collectable stakes (unless it turns out to have sentimental value eventually), but it's certainly fine for playing around with.
-No one has this pen on the internet (as far as I can tell...) - not even the website of the shop I bought it from; not even the main Inoxcrom site itself. This could be the family member that everyone pretends doesn't exist...
Edited by CosmicCat, 31 December 2007 - 21:18.