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  1. I was definitely not looking to acquire a new pen! But when local letter press and stationer oblation papers & press in Portland's Pearl District posted about the "new" Sailor 1911 Compass in their IG feed, I immediately decided to order one. I'm usually careful not to make impulse purchases when it comes to FPs, so why the Compass? Lots of reasons: First was the color, which made an immediate impression on me. Though billed as "olive," it looked to me from the picture like it was a flavor of "lime." The picture was true to the real-life color, and I was ultimately pleased to add this olive-lime (??) pen to my collection.I have a 1911M with a F nib and have been curious about the Medium Fine (MF)--the only nib option for the Compass, it turns out--but unsure about buying a 14k version as an experiment. This seemed to present itself as an opportunity to try the MF out with relatively little risk.The Compass has some interesting features, like a clear feed and a matching converter, that made this budget model especially appealing.Finally, I miss regular visits to oblation in these covid times. Sometimes a Saturday morning destination in its own right, sometimes an interesting and friendly stop on the way to a Thorns FC match, this PDX institution is just awesome and I was happy to find a random reason to place an order. (As an aside, I originally discovered oblation looking for a vintage typewriter and only then discovered it had a lot of pen stuff. Cool place, for sure!) Since it was an impulse purchase, I did not immediately realize that the Compass is really just a re-branded Profit Jr. and not actually a new offering, per se. That detail doesn't really matter to me but I found it interesting. I did pay the full $49 retail, but with some additions to my order got free shipping. In addition to the afore-mentioned matching converter (interestingly, marked "lime green"), the pen also includes a couple of cartridges. Upon arrival, I was surprised to see how bulky its gift packaging was--seems like a bit of overkill, but I guess helped ensure that the pen arrived completely undamaged. The pen itself did not disappoint: As part of Sailor's 1911 lineup, it's the exact same size as my 1911M (see photo above). The olive/lime acrylic is a really neat color and its minimalistic design is appealing. That said, there is no doubt that it's an economy model: except for the nib, clip, and thinly-plated cap band, it's an all-plastic affair. The acrylic, though beautiful, is very light and does feel..."intrinsically fragile." (Is that a euphemism for "cheap"? Yes, it is.) I have no doubt that a single careless drop will result in critical damage, and I suspect I may not have the opportunity to pass it down to future generations. This one lacks the FP heirloom factor and is reminiscent of the likes of a No-Nonsense. That said, what I feared to be a catastrophic crack in the section proved after a quick evaluation to simply be a crease in the acrylic from the molding process and, structurally speaking, quite sound. The most interesting part of the Compass, of course, is the nib. (As it should be!) Though, again, with a simple minimalist steel design, the medium fine (MF) nib was instantly recognizable as a Sailor once I wrote with it. This was the gamble, and it totally paid off. I inked the nib using the converter and started writing: no alignment issues and really no sacrifice in writing quality that I can tell by going the steel route rather than gold. The flow is perfectly medium. (I will say that it took ~5 days to fully write the nib in, but I did not need to make any adjustments whatsoever.) The biggest question is whether the pen is a good value for what it is. The street price puts it at ~$39, so it's directly competing with the likes of the venerable Safari and the opaque Prera (both favorites of mine), which are both solidly built pens. So with that in mind... Pros Cool color! (Whether "olive" or "lime.")Distinctive Sailor medim fine (MF) nib.Clear feed.Solid clip.Matching converter included.Good size.Lightweight.Posts securely.Cons (Likely) fragile plastic.Only available with MF nib. Thin plating on the cap band.Bulky extra packaging.In conclusion, I think the Compass is a great addition to the "entry" or "student" class of FPs. It's really different than either the Prera or the Safari, with a focus on the character of the nib rather than the durability of the construction. But the overall quality of the construction is still good and I feel that attention to detail makes this a pen a surprisingly good value--definitely at street price, but I would argue even at full MSRP. I honestly have not been able to put it down since I got it. That said, I would consider it an alternative or complement to--rather than replacement for--either a Safari and/or Prera. Highly recommended! A quick (positive) note on some inks: I've tried several inks in the Compass so far with fun results. The Compass seems to be reasonably ink-agnostic. I started with Sailor's blue-black (see brief writing sample above) but quickly branched out. I've had awesome results using Pilot's 100th Anniversary Hoteison, a saturated but nuanced green-brown ink. This ink looks unremarkable in many of my pens (which generally run wet) but is shown off to great effect when writing with the Compass. Pilot's iroshizuku Yu-yake (orange) actually looks great in the pen: you can see it in the converter and especially the clear feed. It is a perfect complement to the green acrylic and really pops!
  2. Priced at well under $100, the steel-nibbed Prera is perhaps the epitome of an “entry level” fountain pen: it’s simple, reliable, durable, and economical. Three Preras. Writing sample on Rhodia paper. But don’t be misled by the “entry level” moniker. The Prera, like other models featuring Pilot’s “Super Quality” steel nib, is a serious writing instrument that compares well to pens priced many times as much. Pilot’s out-of-the-box quality (at any price) is second to none, and the Prera affirms their commitment to excellence. What makes the Prera an awesome fountain pen? Several things: 1. Design. Simple, classic aesthetics. While short when capped (about 4.75”), the Prera posts to a comfortable length (of about 5.38”). It is a nice “pocket pen” that can be carried conveniently in a shirt pocked but used like a regular pen. (See pictures.) 2. Nib. Though having virtually no give—the “Super Quality” nibs are quite rigid—the tipping is well ground. These SQ nibs, available in a number of Pilot models (Metropolitan, Plumix, 78G, etc.), are one of the best values out there. (See description of the various nibs below.) 3. Resin. The resin in both the opaque and the clear demonstrator models is warm and tactile. They actually remind me of piano keys. It’s really nice stuff. 4. Trim. Silver trim is simple but nice. (Again, classic.) The clip is quite sturdy and the chromed flat cap top is a great accent feature. The attention to detail highlights the overall quality of the pen. 5. Cartridge/converter. Though proprietary, the Pilot c/c options are quite good. The cartridges have a generous capacity. They also have a wide opening, making them easy to rinse and refill. Also, they seat securely against the inside of the section and so are not prone to cracking and/or leaking, which I've experienced with many other refilled carts (e.g., international, Waterman, Lamy, etc.). As far as I can tell, the Pilot carts can be reused indefinitely without risk of leaks inside the barrel. The new version of the CON-50 converter, while still having a small ink capacity, has an ingenious agitator mechanism that solves the problem of ink getting stuck due to surface tension. The new converter is quite usable, and I change my inks frequently enough that the limited capacity doesn’t bother me too much. I like the Prera so much that I have three different versions: · Configuration #1. Lime Green w/ F nib. This was my first Prera. I actually picked it up when the Lamy Safari in Lime sold out. The color is great (even brighter than the Safari) but the nib is really what makes this pen fantastic. Pilot’s “Super Quality” F nibs are really fine. Really, really fine. I’ve had a couple of these, and they write as fine (perhaps even finer?) than my Binder XXF—I’m guessing that it’s probably ground down to about 0.2 or 0.3, though I don’t have the official spec. This is the range of custom grinds or specialty nibs, and adds to the great value of this pen. (Incidentally, I eventually picked up a Safari but far prefer the Prera.) · Configuration #2. Demonstrator (Black Finials) w/ M nib. I received the M nib as a gift and thought about exchanging it, since I generally favor finer nibs. However, curiosity compelled me to try the M nib and I was amazed by how much I liked it. It is not perfectly round, but rather gives some noticeable line variation. The verticals are decidedly thicker than the horizontals; while definitely not a stubbed nib, I would qualify it as “stubbish.” Running a little dry out of the box, I increased the flow slightly and now count this nib among the best nibs I’ve ever used. · Configuration #3. Demonstrator (Red Finials) w/ italic nib. I actually bought this particular pen used at an excellent a price, then ordered a Plumix with an italic nib and swapped the original round nib myself--it's a fairly simple procedure. (Goulet Pen Co. now offers Preras for sale with the italic nib.) Unfortunately, this nib is somewhat inconsistent (and therefore vexing at times). I can say that when it works, it works well. The untipped nib is very smooth and the line has great variation. Sold as a 1.0 width, I would concur that is indeed a little finer than the Lamy Safari 1.1. However, I cannot give this nib an unqualified endorsement (much as I’d like to). It actually works best on mediocre (i.e., rough and absorbent) paper—it’s the only nib that I prefer to use on the likes of Moleskine, as its performance on that paper is nearly 100%. On smooth-finished Rhodia and Leuchtturm, my preferred papers, the performance is spottier. Though the nib generally works on these smoother papers most of the time, it will suddenly start “hydroplaning,” leaving a thin, anemic line that is a frustrating contrast to the otherwise beautiful italic line. Whether this is due to unevenness in the paper’s finish, smoothness of the nib, trace oils on the page, or some combination thereof, I cannot tell. But it is the downfall of an otherwise brilliant nib. That said, custom italics are occasionally subject to the same frustrating performance issues on smooth papers and I am glad to have this nib in my set of Preras. Three Preras. Comparison of writing samples on Fabriano paper. Overall, the Prera (like all pens from Pilot) is a top-quality writing instrument. As mentioned above, it shares the nib/feed with other “entry level” Pilot offerings, such as the discontinued ultralight 78G and the metal-barrel Metropolitan. (Note that these latter two pens actually cost less than the Prera and can be obtained new for under $20.) I have never tried the Metro (though I intend to), but I do have a 78G and consider that pen the single best value out there. That said, the Prera is a solid writer and the fit/finish are first rate—it feels and performs like a much more expensive pen. This pen would make a great introduction to fountain pens as well as a regular go-to for serious writers. The sturdy construction make it especially good for use “out in the field,” anything from trips to the grocery store to business meetings. (I’ve used mine for both!) Size comparison, posted: Lamy Safari, Pilot 78G, <b>Pilot Prera</b>, Sheaffer Sentinal. Nib comparison, Pilot "Super Quality": Gold-plated 78G and unplated Prera.
  3. Lamy Safari vs Platignum Studio (This is my first review) Introduction I have owned quite a few budget fountain pens over the years such the Parker: Reflex, Vector, Jotter, frontier as well the rotring: Skynn and Freeway (my favorite). I have always enjoyed using fountain pens the safari and studio are two of are my most recent additions to my collection. I bought both of these pens for about £15, the safari from Paperchase and the studio from Rymans. Both of these pens are similarly priced and appeal to the same consumer and a are probably classed as school fountain pens. Design, Appearance and Build Platignum Studio (Unusual clip design) The studio is mainly made from aluminium with a spring steel pocket clip, brass screw threads and a rubberised grip section. The body has a tapered cylindrical cigar shape throughout with black trims. The grip section is resembles the section found on the parker frontier and is comfortable. The pen sits comfortably in the hand and is well balanced both posted and unposted. The most appealing and unusual aspect of the design is the pocket clip which resembles a nib which I particularly like. The pen weighs 20 grams uncapped and 30 grams capped. The pen is available in a wide range of vibrant colours ( see http://www.platignum.com/pick-your-pen/studio-range/studio-pen-rainbow/) Lamy Safari (The Safari’s apple green colour) The safari is made from ABS plastic with a chrome plated sprung pocket clip. The safari has a unique design with flat and curved sides and finger grip groves on the grip section. The pen is comfortably in the hand and however it is a little light for my liking weighing approximately 17 grams and 10 grams unposted. The pen has never really appealed to me until recently. I’d known of it’s existence for around 10 years however this changed recently when I saw the apple green 2012 limited edition pen in the flesh the colour in my is perfect and really suites the design I knew I had to have it. The pen comes in a wide range of colours varying every year with limited editions. Design, Appearance and Build Winner DRAW The materials used in the studio are more premium and represent better value than the safari however the bold design and vibrant colour makes the safari really stand out. Nibs and Filling (Nibs, grip sections) Studio The studio has a steel nib as well and however only comes in a medium size. The nib writes fairly smoothly however it is a little dry and skips occasionally and unlike the safari it does write in a standard medium thickness. In other reviews it has been questioned whether the studio takes standard international cartridges or proprietary ones? I have tried both standard cartridges and a Faber-Castel converter and both work fine and don’t leak. Safari The safari has also has a steel nib and however is available in a wide range of nib sizes F/M/B/LH. The fitted Medium nib writes a little broad which I dislike as I tend to write fairly small. However it writes extremely smoothly and is quite wet. It takes proprietary ink cartridges as well as a proprietary converter which is available for around £5. Nib and Filling Winner SAFARI The nib on the safari wins it as even though it takes proprietary cartridges the smoothness of the nib is amazing. Price and Value Both pens represent good value for money the platignum has a solid traditional metal design build and the safari has very smooth nib however it very light and doesn’t have the same reassuring weight. Price and Value Winner STUDIO The Al-Star is a good £10 more for a similar build to the studio the studio wins as feels more premium so represents better value. Conclusion Overall Winner SAFARI Both pens are good choices for a budget/school/everyday fountain pen and both represent great value for money however I slightly prefer the safari as I really like the vibrant colour and the smoothness of the nib which makes it the winner. However the studio does represents better value for money it has feels more comfortable in the hand as it is more heavy.

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