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  1. OK, so when I hear about an inventor churning something out of his home workshop, I have to buy one; I'm a sucker for it. My latest toy is the Ackerman Pump Pen, a pen that purports to take regular dip pens and India ink. The reason fountain pens cannot take India ink is because there are breather passages that allow air to enter the pen as ink exits. This prevents a vacuum from forming, and keeps everything flowing. But these passages are tiny; they clog easily and are very sensitive to ink viscosity. Ackerman took a novel approach to this problem; he eliminated the breather system and instead put a manual pump on the side of the pen that you press to force ink out. Since there is no breather, all the holes and passages are huge, and the pen breaks down easily for cleaning. I bought the double-ended pen, with a brush on one end and a Manga G feed on the other, which also fits the Esterbrook falcon nibs I like to use. Let me start by saying that this pen is NOT a fountain pen. It is a portable solution for people who like dip pens. It is not intended or designed to be a fountain pen. I'll start with the negatives, and end on a high note. First, the pump takes some getting used to; it's a crude mechanism, and a bit fiddly. It's easy to push too hard and cause ink to drip out. Don't pump it over your drawing. I've had the most luck rolling the pen so the bowl of the nib is facing up. That way, you can also see how heavily you're loading the nib. The reason I switched to a brush pen and a fountain pen in the first place was for speed, and pumping this pen isn't really any faster than dipping when you have to keep moving it away from your drawing. Second; though the brush is high quality (it looks like natural hair to me), it doesn't really have a sharp enough point for cartooning line-work, unless you're working at quite a large scale. It's more useful for washes, or laying down areas of black. The point is nowhere near as sharp as a Pentel pocket brush-pen. Third; dip nibs rust, so you can't really leave the nib in the pen. You have to fill it before your drawing session, and clean it afterward, especially if you load it with India ink. Cleaning is a messy affair. Now the positives. This is a VERY interesting tool, and the only pen AFAIK that will take dip nibs and India ink at all. Cleaning it may be messy, but nowhere near as messy as knocking your inkwell over in Starbucks. It is the only pen out there that does what it does. It has no competition. I'm still in the process of getting used to it, but my initial impression is that this pen is not quite ready for the big-time and will probably not replace the brush-pen and fountain pen I use for inking my cartoons. It is an interesting tool for sketching on-the go, especially if you like to gray-wash over your line work. Its ability to feed any liquid medium, be it India ink or paint, is another interesting property. The brush end could be loaded with process white, for example. There are a lot of older reviews online slamming Ackerman for his customer service, but he seems to have worked hard to fix that. I got my pen within 2 weeks of ordering. (Remember that this operation is one guy working alone in the spare time left over from his day job). So if you like to collect interesting toys, or you are addicted to tar-like inks such as Speedball Super Black, this just might be the toy for you.
  2. I wanted to be able to practise Copperplate without having a bottle of ink and dip pen out, mostly due to having young children who are fascinated by the ink and pen, and always manage to find them if they're not locked away! *The ink and pens, not the children! I decided to try out a couple of Ackerman pump pens, and compare them to the Desiderata Daedalus. My aim is to have an easier, less risky way of practising. Apologies again for the photos quality, handwriting, and verbosity in this review. Ackerman Junior Hunt 101 & Gillot 303 AU$17.29 each Postage AU$2.67 each 3 weeks to arrive in Australia 15 g with a tiny bit of ink inside and lid on. Lid 4 g. These pens arrived in a standard C5 (or similar USA size) envelope with a printed invoice or packing slip, and in a squished, flimsy white cardboard box with "Ackerman Pens" on it. I won't keep or reuse the box. Due to the cheap price, I don't expect any more fancy packaging, though being wrapped in a layer of bubble wrap or similar would offer more protection than the box. That's not to say that nicer presentation wouldn't be appreciated. Once again it would have been nice for at least one page of instructions or a welcome note or something to be included. This pen has a different appearance than is shown on the website. It is plain black (no red stopper) and has no clip on the lid. It is a plain matt black cylinder, darker than the Daedalus and perhaps more consistent in appearance, though not as smooth to the touch. There is an oval hole where the yellow rubber tube shows, and can be "pumped". There is an orange O-ring on the pen body to hold the lid secure. The lid pushes on and is held secure by the O-ring. There is a thinner section inside the lid to prevent it being pushed down too far (fine with Hunt 101 but could possibly still hit the end of a longer nib). The lid posts, although it's a bit loose, but, as with the Daedalus, this makes the pen a bit heavy for me. The feed is pointy and goes almost to within a few mm of the end of the nib. It has quite a high profile, which looks strange hanging down under the nib, but doesn't seem to get in the way. The feed has a hole in the back of it, then a hole in the top (presumably they connect) then a slit that stops just before the end. The Hunt 101 feed is the one designed for the "Principality" nibs according to the Ackerman website (Manga G, Hunt 99, Hunt 101, Esterbrook 375, Falcon, Brause B, Brause C), and as such is slightly too long for the Hunt 101, so to compensate the nib is slid slightly forward. I found the fit a little bit loose - the nib slides back a bit with too much pressure on the tip. Although this shouldn't happen in normal writing situations, I got so frustrated with the lack of ink flow that I tapped the tip of the nib on the paper (not too hard!) and this made it slide back too far. I like both the Hunt 101 and Gillott 303 nibs. They don't require too much pressure to spread the tynes, although they are more likely to catch on the paper than the G nibs, and don't bounce back to a point quite so enthusiastically (even if their point is finer). Filling is fiddly. One of my pens came with an end stopper that was fairly easy to remove, the other one has an O-ring on the stopper which makes it really hard to remove. There is a rubber tube inside the pen body which needs to be filled by eye-dropper. I have only tested these pens with Higgins Enternal. I don't have any eye-droppers, and couldn't find the one pipette I own, so used a soy sauce fish instead and tried to introduce the ink one drop at a time (didn't work very well - surface tension meant it was inclined to block off the end of the tube) or by inserting the nozzle of the fish into the tube (didn't work very well as it sealed the end, making it difficult to displace air to allow the ink to squirt in). With one of the pens, when I finally did get 5 or 6 drops of ink into the tube, it suddenly all poured out the nib. With the other, sometimes each drop would drip out. With a bit of mucking around (including pushing the nibs and feeds further in), and a lot of mess including ink getting in between the tubing and the pen body and now leaking out through the oval pump hole), I finally got enough ink into the pens to do some writing. I feel worried about ink leaking out of the end where the stopper is, although this may be unfounded. I found that the nibs ran dry and railroaded fairly quickly. Pumping by itself did nothing, possibly due to the small volume of ink, except when it made sudden big blobs of ink. Giving the pen a flick to get some ink to move down, loosening or removing the stopper, plus a gentle pump, seemed to get some ink flowing. I found myself wanting to dip the pen so I could keep going, which really defeats the purpose. The pen spontaneously dripped ink on one occasion, whilst doing a down stroke, blotting the page badly. These pens look nice and I had no hesitation buying them to try out (not least of all because one pen plus postage costs the same as postage alone on the Daedalus). I had read reports online of problems with customer service and delivery delays, but decided for the relatively cheap price I was happy to risk it. Then pens arrived (I'm in Australia) 22 days after I ordered them. I am completely happy with that. I am disappointed with the performance, the fiddliness, and the mess. I can't work out why they don't work better, even just with gravity feed, and I will try them out with some other inks and a better eye-dropper/pipette. The pens look nice and would be a lovely tool if they actually worked. Update ---------- I decided to carefully inspect the Ackerman pens. One of the pens had a patent barrel. I could see straight through the tube to the other end. The other pen I couldn't see through. I pulled it apart and discovered a white plastic grommet sitting sideways inside the tube. I pulled them out and then tried to reinsert them. This was so difficult, even with the help of a lot of detergent and water to lubricate. I managed to pierce a hole in the tube while using a cotton bud or chop stick or skewer to try to poke it back in. The tubes are made of Thera-Band, which luckily I have some of to replace it with, but I couldn't find any yellow tubing around the house. I used red, which has a minutely larger diameter, but I managed to get it back in and position the grommet at the end of the tube near the section/feed (which I assume is where it's meant to be). I have not disassembled the other pen to see if it also contains a grommet in that position. I inserted the feed and Hunt 101 nib, and filled the pen with Winsor & Newton Blue Black ink (the blue lid bottle, not red) using a small syringe. The ink dripped straight out, so I tried holding the pen almost horizontal, squirting some ink in, and putting the stopper on quickly. The dripping ceased as soon as I got the stopper on, and there seemed to be some ink still in the pen. I wrote a couple of lines quite successfully after cleaning the nib up a bit. I then had to put the lid on and go off to do something. When I came back to it a couple of hours later there was ink in the lid and all over the nib. I got it writing again after dipping in water. The next time I needed to fill the pen I removed the nib and feed, and filled it from the front end with the stopper in place so the ink didn't run out. This was still a bit messy, but seemed to work better. I had to dip the pen in water again to get it writing. Before dipping it in water, if I pumped the pen I could see the ink seeping through the vent, but it didn't make its way to the tip. I think some ink must have dried out between the nib and the feed, and dipping it into water resolved this. The next two times I went to used the pen, when I took the lid off I was faced with a lot of spilt ink inside the lid, and on the nib, feed and pen body that inserts into the lid. This is very messy and so I think the Ackerman pens need to be cleaned and emptied between writing sessions. Pros: Non-dip flex pen (when the ink flows) Easy to remove and clean or change nibs. Cheap Nice plain design Cheap enough that I don't mind playing roughly with it (piercing tube!) Cons: Leaks Leaks when trying to fill Leaks ink into its lid Messy to fill Ink flow is inconsistent Blots spontaneously Not portable
  3. In a panicked, nervous state and unable to sleep, I thought I'd calm myself by trying out a few pens. I've been torn with the idea of which pens I want to keep and which I want to sell. I have a few vintage pens and though they are all nice in their own ways, I've been looking for a low cost, high quality way of getting the most out of the inks I love. I like an ink that gives strong shading characteristics. So, the ideal pen for me is a flex pen that actually doesn't write too wetly. My Noodler's Ahab (which I've modified as described here) gives nice flex, but it doesn't really "do" anything like hairlines, returns are a bit slow for my tastes, and it writes so wetly that you don't get a chance to really do any shading. You just get a fat, wet line. Anyhow, these are 5 different samples I did with Noodler's Golden Brown (sample 1 must have had a little leftover blue in it). I'd like to know what you think of each pen and why specifically. Note: Please excuse the overall sad quality of the scan and the handwriting. This is my first post! I think I'll take a note from everybody else and just do a photograph in the future for this sort of thing.

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