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Classic Fountain Pens Mandarin Tea


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#1 jandrese

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 15:46

This is a review of the Classic Fountain Pens Mandarin Tea limited edition pen in silver trim. Classic Fountain Pens is, I guess, the bespoke pen moniker of Nibs.com and does not appear affiliated with the similarly named Classic Pens. My pen is #3 of 49 and I don’t know whether or not this refers to the number in silver trim, the number in gold trim, or both. I suspect it is just the number in silver trim. Basically, this is a Bexley Poseidon in solid yellow with black cap, section, and end-cap. The silver trim is probably rhodium plate, not sterling silver. At least it is not hallmarked. The nib is a Bexley stub custom ground by John Mottishaw of Nibs.com into an oblique following my specifications (ground for an overwriting lefty who uses a high angle and moderate pressure). The pen is also set to write wet but “not a paintbrush”.

IMG_1400.jpg

IMG_1405.jpg

I’ve had nibs custom ground before, but only twice via email. Luckily, both previous long distance custom jobs worked out well, so I was optimistic. Indeed, the nib prepared for me by the geniuses at Nakaya is a work of art. Given that Mr. Mottishaw has the blessing of Nakaya gave me more confidence. Despite his reputation, the nib was horrible when it arrived. It did not have a discernable sweet spot and the left tine snagged awfully on upstrokes. Upon inspection with a dissecting microscope the tip appeared almost totally devoid of iridium. Perhaps a lot of material was removed to create sharp line variation, or perhaps a lot of material was removed because mistakes were made in the rush to complete the pen order after a long vacation. Regardless, since I was unlikely to make things worse I decided to try to fix the nib myself.
Working under the dissecting scope I set about re-shaping the nib with 1,000 to 12,000 grit sandpapers. After about an hour the nib had finally become functional. It still has a nice line width variation, but it now also has a sweet spot and the upstroke snagging is almost entirely gone. In contrast to this pen is my Lamy 2000 medium oblique. The Lamy wrote wonderfully right out the box without any customization. The Lamy nib, however, does not display as sharp a line variation as does the modified Bexley nib.

IMG_1406.jpg

IMG_1403.jpg

Now that the nib is in working order I feel better about the pen, and I have enjoyed using it, but I’m not as pleased as thought I would be. Based on the pictures and description on the Nibs.com website the yellow color is not as bright as I’d hoped for. Sailor’s yellow, for example, is brighter (I like) whereas my yellow Waterman Charleston is darker (I like less). Although Nibs.com does not make a specific promise, the edition is not as exclusive as I’d thought it would be, 10 versus 49 pens in silver trim. The nib is now quite good, but not outstanding.

IMG_1398.jpg

Basically, this pen is “just” a yellow Bexley Poseidon. As such, it is a very nice pen but it is not super special, especially considering the large number of Bexley Poseidon special editions out there. I guess I fell victim to my own irrational desire to get a yellow pen coupled with some clever marketing. Nibs.com seems like a good company and its reputation precedes it but they dropped the ball on this one. All in all, I like the pen and will use it, but I know that I’ll never shake some nagging underlying residual dissatisfaction. Bummer. Live and learn.




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#2 FrankB

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 18:51

Thanks for a good and honest review.

I gave serious consideration to this LE pen myself. I do not yet have a Poseidon of any variety, and I knew this one would be "just" a Poseidon, but one in a color I would like. Yes, yellow colors do vary from pen to pen. I have several examples in my own collection.

The custom ground nib gives me pause. It is always possible that someone other than John ground that nib. But, still!, it is John's reputation on the line. I have examples of John's work, and all of them are excellent. His $20 fee for just touching a pen annoys the (potty mouth) out of me. All told, I would have returned the pen for a retip and regrind - but that is my personal choice. It is still good to know the issue arose, and I am sorry for your inconvenience.

I hope you enjoy the pen. Good luck.

#3 thibaulthalpern

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 19:18

Did they really engrave those words "2008 Mandarin Tea..." to the yellow pen or was that photoshopped in? I hope it is the latter because to have it engraved in like that, to my eyes, looks a bit...oh...how to say...hideous embarrassed_smile.gif
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#4 skipwilliams

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 19:57

All the Bexley-made Posieden's have engravings just like that: Richard Binder, Penultimate, Parkville Pen, and John's Classic Fountain Pens, among others.

Why did you think it looks so bad? The font? Size?

Skip

QUOTE (thibaulthalpern @ Sep 20 2008, 08:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Did they really engrave those words "2008 Mandarin Tea..." to the yellow pen or was that photoshopped in? I hope it is the latter because to have it engraved in like that, to my eyes, looks a bit...oh...how to say...hideous embarrassed_smile.gif


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#5 mstone

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 13:02

QUOTE (skipwilliams @ Sep 20 2008, 03:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
All the Bexley-made Posieden's have engravings just like that: Richard Binder, Penultimate, Parkville Pen, and John's Classic Fountain Pens, among others.

Why did you think it looks so bad? The font? Size?

That's definitely good to know--it looks like the kind of advertising that came on free third tier pens 50 years ago, and certainly isn't something I'd want on my pen. sick.gif

#6 thibaulthalpern

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 15:29

QUOTE (skipwilliams @ Sep 20 2008, 12:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
All the Bexley-made Posieden's have engravings just like that: Richard Binder, Penultimate, Parkville Pen, and John's Classic Fountain Pens, among others.

Why did you think it looks so bad? The font? Size?

Skip

QUOTE (thibaulthalpern @ Sep 20 2008, 08:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Did they really engrave those words "2008 Mandarin Tea..." to the yellow pen or was that photoshopped in? I hope it is the latter because to have it engraved in like that, to my eyes, looks a bit...oh...how to say...hideous embarrassed_smile.gif



Ah, excellent question, Skip. I played a bit with typography in college as part of my training in professional writing, and I also did some design courses. Indeed, the font is a problem. The size is conceivably not okay either...perhaps but it's hard to tell (for me) until I play around with the font type. I would much prefer it not be engraved with wording like that.

Different font types evoke different feelings and messages. Sans serif type like what you have, a variant of Helvetica, I think, evokes clean modernism and simplicity. That clashes strongly with the pen which to me is neither that simple nor modern. A more simple and modern pen is one with clean lines and no fuss such as the Lamy Studio but even that large of an engraving will NOT work on the Lamy Studio, in my opinion. Further more, the simple (and elegant though) looking Helvetica font evokes the image of a typewriter. Indeed, more typewriters do not type in Helvetica font but some variant of courier. However, Helvetica is machine looking compared to a font like Zapf Chancery which is serif and handwriting looking. Those features make it more appropriate for a fountain pen because a fountain pen is used for longhand writing.

Typography is an art and lot of document (electronic or physical page) designers have to tinker with it. Not every artist knows how to play with type as it's a separate kind of art itself. Usually graphic designers deal more with type than say painters and photographers.

Nevertheless, I think such a big engraving in that style is aesthetically poor. My opinion, of course :-)

-------------

Some addition: take a look carefully at the font type of the different pen manufacturers. Lamy, for instance, uses a modern sans serif font that fits the company's style of pen. I'm taking a look now at my Sailor Sapporo pen and I notice that around the rhodium ring the font engraved is more romanesque-like font[*] and indeed fits the styling of the pen which is more traditional looking and romanesque evokes ancient, classic, solid. Now, I turn to my Pilot Décimo and I see the clip uses a sans serif modern font and engraved on it are the word décimo. In all these cases, the font size is small, maybe around 9pt to 8pt. But the font size on your pen is huge and overpowers the lines and other visual elements of the pen. It's drawing attention in the wrong way.

[*] Sorry, this may not be the proper term. I am rusty on my typography terms and furthermore, I was never fully trained in it since I was not a journeyman in a traditional print shop, I'm not a typographer, and I only dealt with the very technical details of typography in a basic way. I do have a visual understanding and aesthetics sense of it though.

Edited by thibaulthalpern, 21 September 2008 - 15:39.

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#7 Brian

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 21:54

Thank you for an informative and educational review. I've always wondered about the quality control. About the pen itself, I find it to be a great design similar in shape to the classic MB 139, but at a smaller scale. It works well and I like the absence of hardware at the section.

#8 jandrese

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 15:17

**********UPDATE***********

After some emailing, and some phone calls with John Mottishaw of Nibs.com I had the nib on my Mandarin Tea pen re-ground to a medium stub. Despite the negative review i first posted about the pen, Mr. Mottishaw was both polite and helpful. We discussed what to do with the nib and I submitted some writing samples and diagrams of how I hold my pens. Since I am a lefty who relatively easily adapts to any reasonably decent nib, it is hard to pin down my preferred writing style, angle, etc. Nevertheless, on the re-ground Mr. Mottishaw really hit the nail on the head. The pen now writes wonderfully and still shows excellent line width variation. I am much happier with his work than my own attempt to fix the oblique version of this nib. Mr. Mottishaw went the extra mile to please me and seems dedicated to providing excellent custom nibs to his customers. Thanks Nibs.com!





QUOTE (jandrese @ Sep 20 2008, 10:46 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This is a review of the Classic Fountain Pens Mandarin Tea limited edition pen in silver trim. Classic Fountain Pens is, I guess, the bespoke pen moniker of Nibs.com and does not appear affiliated with the similarly named Classic Pens. My pen is #3 of 49 and I don’t know whether or not this refers to the number in silver trim, the number in gold trim, or both. I suspect it is just the number in silver trim. Basically, this is a Bexley Poseidon in solid yellow with black cap, section, and end-cap. The silver trim is probably rhodium plate, not sterling silver. At least it is not hallmarked. The nib is a Bexley stub custom ground by John Mottishaw of Nibs.com into an oblique following my specifications (ground for an overwriting lefty who uses a high angle and moderate pressure). The pen is also set to write wet but “not a paintbrush”.

IMG_1400.jpg

IMG_1405.jpg

I’ve had nibs custom ground before, but only twice via email. Luckily, both previous long distance custom jobs worked out well, so I was optimistic. Indeed, the nib prepared for me by the geniuses at Nakaya is a work of art. Given that Mr. Mottishaw has the blessing of Nakaya gave me more confidence. Despite his reputation, the nib was horrible when it arrived. It did not have a discernable sweet spot and the left tine snagged awfully on upstrokes. Upon inspection with a dissecting microscope the tip appeared almost totally devoid of iridium. Perhaps a lot of material was removed to create sharp line variation, or perhaps a lot of material was removed because mistakes were made in the rush to complete the pen order after a long vacation. Regardless, since I was unlikely to make things worse I decided to try to fix the nib myself.
Working under the dissecting scope I set about re-shaping the nib with 1,000 to 12,000 grit sandpapers. After about an hour the nib had finally become functional. It still has a nice line width variation, but it now also has a sweet spot and the upstroke snagging is almost entirely gone. In contrast to this pen is my Lamy 2000 medium oblique. The Lamy wrote wonderfully right out the box without any customization. The Lamy nib, however, does not display as sharp a line variation as does the modified Bexley nib.

IMG_1406.jpg

IMG_1403.jpg

Now that the nib is in working order I feel better about the pen, and I have enjoyed using it, but I’m not as pleased as thought I would be. Based on the pictures and description on the Nibs.com website the yellow color is not as bright as I’d hoped for. Sailor’s yellow, for example, is brighter (I like) whereas my yellow Waterman Charleston is darker (I like less). Although Nibs.com does not make a specific promise, the edition is not as exclusive as I’d thought it would be, 10 versus 49 pens in silver trim. The nib is now quite good, but not outstanding.

IMG_1398.jpg

Basically, this pen is “just” a yellow Bexley Poseidon. As such, it is a very nice pen but it is not super special, especially considering the large number of Bexley Poseidon special editions out there. I guess I fell victim to my own irrational desire to get a yellow pen coupled with some clever marketing. Nibs.com seems like a good company and its reputation precedes it but they dropped the ball on this one. All in all, I like the pen and will use it, but I know that I’ll never shake some nagging underlying residual dissatisfaction. Bummer. Live and learn.



#9 goodguy

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 22:11

Wow what a review.
I loved your honesty,simple and direct but without being offensive.
The pen is beautiful and I am sorry it is not as amazing as you expected it to be.
Respect to all

#10 FrankB

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 23:59

I am really glad to hear the regrind has turned out well. It sounds like you now have a "real" example of John's work. I hope you continue to enjoy the pen.

#11 Deirdre

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 02:16

QUOTE (mstone @ Sep 21 2008, 06:02 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (skipwilliams @ Sep 20 2008, 03:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
All the Bexley-made Posieden's have engravings just like that: Richard Binder, Penultimate, Parkville Pen, and John's Classic Fountain Pens, among others.

Why did you think it looks so bad? The font? Size?

That's definitely good to know--it looks like the kind of advertising that came on free third tier pens 50 years ago, and certainly isn't something I'd want on my pen. sick.gif

Really? It's the pen's model name. I don't think putting the model name on the side of the pen is that weird.
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#12 Rufus

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 11:52

QUOTE (Deirdre @ Oct 30 2008, 10:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (mstone @ Sep 21 2008, 06:02 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (skipwilliams @ Sep 20 2008, 03:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
All the Bexley-made Posieden's have engravings just like that: Richard Binder, Penultimate, Parkville Pen, and John's Classic Fountain Pens, among others.

Why did you think it looks so bad? The font? Size?

That's definitely good to know--it looks like the kind of advertising that came on free third tier pens 50 years ago, and certainly isn't something I'd want on my pen. sick.gif

Really? It's the pen's model name. I don't think putting the model name on the side of the pen is that weird.

I would have bought both a Mandarin Tea and a Tea Time had it not been for the inscriptions; I think it cheapens the look of both pens.
Bryan

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#13 PaulK

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 12:24

Very attractive pen & one that I've been considering. It would certainly be different from my modest collection of conventional-looking pens. Glad that you were able to get the nib re-ground to your liking. I can only imagine your initial disappointment.

I noticed a very obvious slanted "crimp"/line running across the nib's tip: what happened? I've had three pens modified and would have been mortified to have a nib marked-up like that. It truly would have been sent back **quickly** for repair or replacement. PLease: my apologies if this occurred afterwards, when you tried to correct the nib issues noted.

In any case, a nice happy ending...and I'm sure this pen will make it into your daily rotation.

Paul




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#14 offbase

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 13:25

It's refreshing to see someone bold enough to actually post when they have a negative experience with a nib done by a nibmesiter, and I'd like to see more of it. Everyone makes a mistake from time to time, and nibmeisters are no exception. That being said, no one should rest on their laurels and forego rigorous write-testing to ensure the quality of their nib, which seems to have initially happened in your case. Mr. Mottishaw made you happy in the end (and that's what really counts), but to me, one should never have to return a pen which they've sent out, waited forever for and paid through the nose for custom nib work, unless the customer had really unusual specs which would be difficult to hit on without some trial and error. It had to be really discouraging after the long wait, the anticipation, finally getting that pen and not being able to wait to "dig in," and then .... yuck.

#15 jandrese

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 15:08

Actually, the line you see on the nib was there when I initially got the pen. I put no tool to the nib during my attempt to fix the nib.




QUOTE (PaulK @ Oct 31 2008, 07:24 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Very attractive pen & one that I've been considering. It would certainly be different from my modest collection of conventional-looking pens. Glad that you were able to get the nib re-ground to your liking. I can only imagine your initial disappointment.

I noticed a very obvious slanted "crimp"/line running across the nib's tip: what happened? I've had three pens modified and would have been mortified to have a nib marked-up like that. It truly would have been sent back **quickly** for repair or replacement. PLease: my apologies if this occurred afterwards, when you tried to correct the nib issues noted.

In any case, a nice happy ending...and I'm sure this pen will make it into your daily rotation.

Paul



#16 tknechtel

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 16:29

I feel that I have to weigh in on this thread. I've bought three pens from John Mottishaw and had him modify two more, and I'm very happy with all them. The pens wrote beautifully, just the way I ordered them, and the service was great.

While we all value the candor on this network which allows us to share our experiences with sellers and nibmeisters, it's important not to let one unfortunate experience - which was corrected by the seller - snowball into a storm of bad feeling towards one person, especially a person whose reputation is vouched for by many, many more good reports than what appears to be one anomaly. I'm glad Dr. Andresen got the situation resolved and that he posted about his positive experience with John - which, in my experience, has been the norm.
Tom

#17 mstone

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 22:09

QUOTE (Deirdre @ Oct 30 2008, 10:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (mstone @ Sep 21 2008, 06:02 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (skipwilliams @ Sep 20 2008, 03:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
All the Bexley-made Posieden's have engravings just like that: Richard Binder, Penultimate, Parkville Pen, and John's Classic Fountain Pens, among others.

Why did you think it looks so bad? The font? Size?

That's definitely good to know--it looks like the kind of advertising that came on free third tier pens 50 years ago, and certainly isn't something I'd want on my pen. sick.gif

Really? It's the pen's model name. I don't think putting the model name on the side of the pen is that weird.

Putting the name on the pen isn't necessarily odd. The question is how it looks. E.g., where, what size, what typeface, weight of the letters, etc. The "LAMY" on a 2000 fits elegantly with the minimalist aesthetic of the pen. The "LAMY" on a safari is large and clunky, and fits well with the industrial aesthetic of the pen. The "Esterbrook" on the eponymous pens is unobtrusive and has a distinctive classic typography. This example seems overly chunky, contrasting, and distracting.

#18 Bill

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 22:32

QUOTE (skipwilliams @ Sep 20 2008, 03:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
All the Bexley-made Posieden's have engravings just like that...


Not quite. The 10 yellow Tiger Tail Pattern Poseidons had no engraving at all. At least mine does not, nor have I seen engraving in the few public photos of them.

Bill

#19 andy1m

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 01:44

I like the colour and the design. Thanks for the review.

#20 KenS

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 03:07

QUOTE (thibaulthalpern @ Sep 20 2008, 12:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Did they really engrave those words "2008 Mandarin Tea..." to the yellow pen or was that photoshopped in? I hope it is the latter because to have it engraved in like that, to my eyes, looks a bit...oh...how to say...hideous embarrassed_smile.gif


Jon is lucky to have the engraving on the side.
Mine has the engraving on the top, and to my eyes it looks really tacky.
Ken.






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