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Review: Modified Ranga 8b This review is about my experience with a Ranga 8b fountain pen that has been my primary daily writer for about a year. I will discuss my thoughts on the pen, the experience of ordering from Ranga, and the modifications that I made to it to fit my writing needs. I won’t be assigning scores to various categories of performance; while that approach is certainly popular and useful in some contexts, I think a general discussion of my experience might be more valuable for the reader. Additionally, I won’t be discussing the stock version of the pen very much. So, if you need information on size and other specifics, one of the many other reviews of this pen is probably a better source of information. The Ranga 8b is an artisan made pen, manufactured in Thiruvallur, near Chennai / Madras India; like many high-quality pens from the region, it has been hand turned from an ebonite rod. I ordered my pen in a brushed mat black finish. I truly appreciate handmade, high-quality writing instruments that small makers like Ranga produce. Ranga is not attempting to sell a brand name nor do they really have a marketing department. They only have the promise of making well-made pen that truly fits your needs. I ordered the pen directly from their website at https://rangapens.com/ I found Ranga to be particularly responsive in their communication. After placing my order, I was contacted by the company to confirm my preferences and to give me updates about when it was being made and shipped. It took roughly a week for my pen to be manufactured, shipped and delivered to my home in California. General Thoughts on the Ranga 8b Much has been written about the Ranga 8b pen model, so my experience is not unique and probably confirms most of its positive accolades. The pen itself is beautiful and is very well finished. Most users enjoy the long, hourglass shaped section, and indeed I can confirm that it is my most comfortable pen to write with, in part because of this feature. The shape and balance of the pen in stock form is amazing, especially if you use it unposted. The pen simply feels luxurious, and when I received it, I knew that I would not have to search out a high priced “grail pen” to get what I was looking for in terms of a writing experience. My Pen and the Modifications I Made I opted to get the eyedropper model, because it gives me a lot of control in setting up the pen. I write on thick paper (Clairefontaine notebooks and HP32 inkjet paper) and I prefer pens with a generous ink flow. I also find that I much prefer ebonite feeds – they seem to be more consistent in delivering a wet line. And as a material for the pen body and section, I enjoy ebonite because it does not get slick if my hands get sweaty, and because I can make small alterations to the shape of the pen if needed. The pen came with a high quality Kanwrite nib with Ranga engraving, and a simple ebonite feed; the nib and the feed are friction fit into the section. I ordered a medium, which I use most of the time. However, I also have another Kanwrite nib that can fit this pen, which I ground down to a stubbish left oblique (the red cursive in one of the photos was written with this nib, though in another pen at the time). The first change I made to the pen was to replace the feed. The stock feed was reliable, but it was not quite providing a generous enough ink flow. After adjusting it a few times, I opted to replace it with a high quality Kanwrite 6.3mm ebonite feed from Fountain Pen Revolution. At the same time, I also opted to recess the nib, because I wanted it to be slightly shorter. I pushed the nib and feed into the section a bit further than normal, and heat set the section to this nib and feed using boiling water. In other words, I submerged the section in hot water and shaped it around the nib and feed to ensure proper fit – yet another advantage of ebonite. Afterward, I submerged just the nib and feed to heat set them to ensure proper ink flow. Thus, the nib on the pen is set further within than stock, and after heat setting (section and nib/feed), I have no issues with ink leakage. The second major change I made to the pen was to create an added taper toward the back of the pen body. In some ways, it resembles a less dramatic mid-body taper of the kind found on the Franklin Christoph Model 2 Intrinsic. The stock pen posted securely, but not deeply; it was a bit long for me. And while I enjoyed it, even while posted, I wanted to improve the balance of the pen. I used a very sharp knife to shave off material starting at about two thirds of the way towards to end of the pen. Next, I used a sanding sponge, 80 grit, to remove the marks from this process, so that the finish matched the original brushed, mat ebonite. In hindsight, I probably should have used only the sanding sponge. It was probably sufficient for the job and by using a knife I introduced flaws into the pen that you can see if you look closely. That said, this modification worked wonderfully. My pen now posts fully and deeply, and its balance is perfect for my hand. This modification meant that instead of using the pen periodically, it has become my main pen for everyday work; I barely put it down. Final Thoughts The pen is my ideal writing instrument, and certainly the most comfortable I have ever used. The only time I do not use it is when I need to write in direct sunlight, or to use thin, cheap paper, such as when I grade student work (I am a history teacher). For these tasks I use a cartridge converter pen instead of an eyedropper. Much is sometimes made of using an eyedropper pen for everyday use, and I am not sure I have much to add on the subject. I have for years used an eyedropper every day, with few if any problems, as do thousands of other people. Doing so takes some knowledge and patience, so as they say, your mileage may vary. I will be ordering another Ranga 8b pen, even if it is just to have one in reserve. This pen is by a large measure is my favorite. That said, since I prefer to post this pen, I will ask for my next one to be made with a slight taper towards the end to facilitate deep posting. I think that this ability to customize an order, combined with receiving a very high-quality product for a reasonable price, is one of the major advantages of ordering from a small artisan like Ranga. Needless to say, I am a very satisfied customer, who is just trying to spread the word. If I were to order this pen again for the first time, I would probably purchase the stock version, to see if I would prefer to use it posted or unposted. I obviously liked it enough to take the time to modify it, rather than simply buying a new pen, which I think speaks to its appeal.
I have been collecting fountain pens for 4 or 5 years. In that time I have had well over 250 fountain pens pass through my hands. I first started with fountain pens when I was a boy. My father always used a fountain pen, a MB 149, this was his only pen and he carried it everywhere, still does. He has sent it in for service over the years but he always tells everyone who asks about his lifetime warranty and he has made use of it many times. When I was 18 or so my father bought me a MB 146. I used it sparingly but at the time I was not mature enough to appreciate it and didn't care for the mess that I invariably made. 20 years down the road my daughter went off to summer camp. We sent her to an old fashioned camp on an island in the Pacific NW and the only way to communicate with her was via snail mail letters. The camp does not allow, email, text, telephone, etc. No electronic communication whatsoever. I started writing my daughter letters almost every day and I was appalled by my handwriting. Not good. I have had a computer since I was six years old and gave up on handwritten schoolwork as soon as I was allowed. The prospect of writing letters was a little daunting to me and I was definitely embarrassed by my awful script and print. I started looking for a better pen that allowed me to write more legibly and quickly settled upon a fountain pen. I found one made for practicing handwriting with a little feedback so that the pen held the paper nicely and did not shake with my unsteady hand. This event though started an odyssey for the perfect fountain pen. I started going to shows and events, reading blogs, scanning through eBay, sending pens to nibmeisters, I found this forum, and have bought and sold quite a number of pens over the past 4 to 5 years all in search of the perfect pen. I got into repairing and restoring old pens. I would buy old pens in as found condition and work to get them functioning again sometimes with limited success. As a result I have a box of 50 or more pens that I was not able to get working. I like flexible italic nibs. I love a little line variation. I have pretty much given up on modern pens in favor of vintage. I thought I would share my current favorite pens. While I have considerably more than this these are the pens that I find myself reaching for. My other pens just sit in a box until I finally bring myself to the point where I am willing to part with them. These pens are in no particular order of preference. 1. Montblanc 214. This is a button fill flexible italic nib that has been customized by Pendleton Brown. I bought this pen about 3 years ago and somehow it manages to stay in my top rotation. I had it for sale at one point but no-one bought it for the price I was asking and I am glad that it didn't sell. Now it has sentimental value as my first vintage MB and I don't think I will sell it. It is both very crisp yet somehow glides over the page. I prefer finer, more substantial pens but the nib on this one is just too spectacular to worry about the pen that is holding it too much. 2. Montblanc 146 F Semi-Flex with flat feed and telescoping fill. This is a celluloid pen from 1950-51 I believe. Pendleton Brown customized the nib to an italic and made it a little finer but the way it writes was vastly improved. I cant decide between this 146 and the next. I will probably end up selling on one of them as it doesn't make sense to have two identical pens but currently I cannot decide which of them I prefer more. 3. Montblanc 146 EF Semi-Flex with two groove round feed and telescoping fill. This is a celluloid pen from 1951-53 I believe. I did not customize the nib on this one. It is nice and crisp. I am not sure if a former owner customized it or if it came this way from MB but it is wonderful. It has an Italic edge but flexes for great line variation. As I mentioned I cannot decide which pen I prefer this one or the just slightly earlier one. 4. Montblanc 642 F full flex with flat feed and telescoping fill. This pen is celluloid and gold plate overlay. I believe it is from 1950-51. I did not customize the nib on this pen is is really fantastic. I think that this pen is one of those that I reach for most often. I really like the look of it and the way that it feels. It is a little smaller than I would prefer and I am looking for a 644 currently with a similar nib. I have another pen just like this one currently out for repairs getting its cork replaced and I will probably end up selling one of them. They are pretty much identical. The flex nib is wonderful on both of these pens. Probably the best stock nib I have ever used for my preference. 5. Krone Fiction Picante EF to M semi flex italic stub. Pendleton brown customized this nib for me. This is the only modern pen that I have in my top box. I really love the way that this nib turned out from Pendleton. It is very crisp and the nib is more soft than a real semi-flex but the line variation is really fun. I also love the way it looks clipped into my jacket or shirt pocket. The fittings are solid silver and it is a dream to write with. 6. Omas 556 Brevetto full flex M to BB italic stub. The pen is a piston filler from about 1960 I think. Pendleton Brown customized this nib for me and I really love it. With light pressure I can write nice spidery print and with a little more pressure it is very expressive. Even though this is kind of a plain pen I don't think I will part with it. It is very unique and I don't have another pen that writes anything like it. I use this pen for custom thank you and birthday cards. I can get nice thick shaded lines. 7. Diamond Point Black and Pearl Flat Top Lever Fill. I think that this thick celluloid pen is from 1924-25. The quality of the material is quite remarkable. No-one believes that the pen is really that old. It is in fabulous condition. It has a Warranted EF to B flexible italic nib customized by Pendleton Brown. I reach for this pen quite often. The lines are very crisp and the flexibility of the nib is very smooth and even. I really like my handwriting with this pen. It is very large and makes a great statement in my pocket as well. 8. Morrison's "The Tourist" Ef to B italic flex nib. Pendleton Brown customized the nib of this oversized black and pearl pen for me as well. This pen is a lever filler. I am not sure what year this pen was made. I would guess the 40s but I don't really know. I like the way that this pen looks and now that Pendleton has done his magic I really like the way that it writes as well. 9. Waterman's Silver Ray. This pen is from the 30s and has the vacuum pump fill that Waterman's used during this time on some of its pens. The lever compresses a bulb and when it inflates it sucks ink into the body of the pen. The ink capacity is quite large. I really like these pens. I bought three of them when I was trying to acquire one of them and they were all in disrepair. Out of the three that I bought I ended up with two functioning pens. The nib on this pen was customized by Pendleton Brown. The #4 Key Hole nib is really nice to write with and has a good flex. I cannot decide which I prefer this Silver Ray or the Emerald Ray. I think I like the looks of the Emerald Ray a little better but I prefer the way that this Silver Ray writes. 10 Waterman's Emerald Ray. This is the brother to the Silver Ray. Pendleton Brown also customized the nib on this pen and It is also spectacular This pen has a little less flex and a little less of an edge to the italic but they are both very similar. I like the gold hardware on this pen a little better than the silver on the other. This pen also has the gold emblem on both the top and bottom of the pen whereas the Silver Ray only has the silver emblem on the bottom. 11. Waterman's 7 Emerald Ray. This lever fill pen has the famous Red nib. I left it stock and it performs very well. I have so far resisted the urge to collect more of these #7 Waterman's. They came in Jet Black, Emerald Ray, and Red and Olive RIpple. The color coded nibs come in different widths and flexibility as well. Richard Binder has a good description of these on his website. I am looking for a Pink or Black nib in a #7 or #5. This pen is in fantastic condition. I bought it from the collection of the late Earl Shigemoto the former owner of the Honolulu Pen Shop. This pen is really fabulous and I highly recommend these #7 Waterman's pens with a Red nib. 12. Waterman's 94 with #4 Italic flex key hole nib. This lever fill pen has this beautiful celluloid I call Autumn Night. I am not sure what Waterman's called it. Pendleton Brown customized the nib for me and it is smooth and wonderful to write with. This is a light comfortable pen that I use when I am going to be writing for long periods. I get no fatigue whatsoever with this pen. 13 - 15. Eversharp Skylines with "flextastic" nibs customized by Pendleton Brown. I have collected these Skylines extensively. I still have more than 20 of them and these are my favorite 3. The Skyline came in three different sizes, Demi, Standard and Executive. It also came in a ton of different materials, colors and nib variety. I prefer two certain types of flexible nib. I can spot them now on sight and still will occasionally buy them. I have sold off a number of Skyline pens in my collection but these three are special to me.