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  1. Geordielass

    Parker Vector - A Classic?

    For Information: Bought: At least a decade ago from WHSmith's (large stationery shop), reduced to half price (£3-£4... I think). Availability: This is about the easiest fountain pen to lay hands on in the UK and, as I understand it, it certainly isn't difficult to find in many other parts of the world, either, whether in a high-street shop, a supermarket or on the net. The price hasn't risen too much in the last decade, either. If you want a fine nib you may not get one quite so easily, though, and extra fine stopped being made ages ago! There's a bit of a story behind this one, for me: You have to understand, me and the Parker Vector model, we go way back... When I was nine, I changed schools. My first school had carried a few of the 1970s “progressive educational” ideas into the 80s which, in part, meant that once you could print something vaguely recognisable as lower case letters (and my parents had ensured that I had started school being able to do that), they just left you to get on with handwriting the best way you could. However, my new school insisted on fountain pens! I couldn't even do “joined up” writing. At around the same time, my favourite Aunt was diagnosed with lung cancer and was receiving intensive chemo- and radio-therapy. My parents and I visited her every Saturday, often in hospital, and one of us must have mentioned that I had to have a fountain pen, because she gave me £10 and told me to go and get myself a pen for school. That was how I got my first Vector fountain pen. It was a “flighter” model and I had my name engraved on it. I loved that pen, and it became doubly precious after my Aunt died the following year. We moved to Scotland when I was 13 and it got lost during that move – I grieved for that pen. Moving on, rather a lot of years, I wandered into a branch of WHSmith, probably for a magazine or newspaper, but WHSmith sell two things which I can't resist, books and pens, so when I saw a bargain bin with Parker pens I made a beeline. I ended up buying a navy blue Vector (the colour is now discontinued, but there is a brighter blue version) and a magenta/gunmetal ballpoint (I still have the ballpoint somewhere but I don't even know what model it is – a bit like an Urban, but it pre-dates that, so I'm not sure). That Vector began to live in my handbag and amazingly (considering I've never been all that careful with it) it has survived to this very day. I have to admit it's well past its best now, even if it is still a very decent writer. I thought I'd review it while it's still in the land of the living. Appearance/Design – 6/10: This pen is very utilitarian; there's nothing fancy or exciting about it, but it is very practical and it gets the job done. The only semi-unusual part of the design is the metal section (brushed stainless steel) with a plastic body – I can think of others, but not one so inexpensive. Other than the section/nib, the end-cap on the barrel and the clip are also metal and the clip is in the traditional Parker arrow-shape, though without any engraved fletching. The clip has plenty of spring, so no problem clipping it to most everyday things. Here's a link to the Vector “family” on the Parker website: http://www.parkerpen.com//ProductDisplay?storeId=12002&urlLangId=-11&productId=11514&urlRequestType=Base&top_category=12001&langId=-11&catalogId=12002. Parker may call it “chic”, but even though I have a lot of affection for the Vector model, objectively, “dull but worthy” is probably a better description of the design, here's mine: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2865/10134263335_1343b988de_b.jpg Parker Vector by Geordielass78, on Flickr Perfectly good pen, but a little boring, really, isn't it? As you can see mine's a bit (OK, a lot) scuffed – it's a 10-year-old daily carry (handbag pocket with at least 1 other pen, a propelling pencil, a mobile phone and sometimes keys) and you may even be able to see that's it's less than 10 years ago that I kicked the habit of chewing pens when lost in thought! Calling it boring is slightly unfair of me, it has clean straight lines and I like the contrast between the steel and plastic parts of the pen which, perhaps, makes it a little more classy than the average inexpensive plastic bodied pen. The only other thing worth noting is that it has a sturdy plastic “ring” around the bottom of the nib which gives it, almost, a semi-hooded look. The nib itself is very small and narrow, without a breather hole and PARKER printed across it just below the slit. What has to be noted in its favour is that, even though this is a 1980s design, meant for the younger/less affluent end of the market, instead of the pen equivalent of a huge permed mullet, enormous shoulder-pads, fluorescent eye makeup and earrings that could double as chandeliers, Parker kept the design simple and reasonably refined. That's all I have to say about it, there isn't much more, is there? Score-wise, I hovered between 6 and 7, but I think the tug to 7 is based on my personal affection for the pen. Really, it's a very functional design, but just a bit plain and unexciting, so I think it has to be 6/10. Construction/Quality – 10/10: This surely has to be a high scoring category, after all its still going after 10 or more years. The plastic part is light but robust – well it was robust. The body has several hairline cracks around the threaded end now (hence my surmise about it not lasting much longer). I know exactly how they came about, and it's mostly my fault. I was screwing the (metal) section into the (plastic) body about a year ago, after refilling, and I over-tightened (I knew not to do that on this pen, but I wasn't concentrating). Unfortunately, after you've cracked it once, it becomes a lot easier to do a second time. I imagine this is probably an inherent design flaw in the plastic models when used a little heavy-handedly - the metal's rigid and the plastic has a enough give to be slightly over-tightened, but not enough to survive if you are really being vigorous. Still, it took about 9 years for it to happen, so it certainly can't lose construction/quality points for this. When it comes to my original flighter model it was practically indestructible – that pen was accidentally knocked off desks onto hard classroom floors numerous times, occasionally while uncapped, and took no harm, even when landing nib-down. I think it was stood on, at least once (the barrel, not the nib – I don't think it's that tough). I like the nib a lot, but then again I would, I'm used to it and it's used to me – but I'll go into that in more detail later – it's undoubtedly a good quality nib for this money, though. A very solidly built, reliable pen, and for an inexpensive workhorse, rather than a status symbol or future heirloom, a 10+-year lifespan is pretty impressive! So I have to give it 10/10. Size and Weight - 6/10: It's fairly light, especially considering it's partly stainless steel, and I guess it manages that by being fairly small. Don't get me wrong, it's not tiny, but I do think it's smaller than average – width-wise, anyway, lengthwise, it's actually pretty big, if you post it. (Thinking it was on its last legs, I decided to replace it with a stainless steel Jotter, now that is a teeny pen – not my best purchase.) Compare it to a Parker Jotter and Platinum Preppy: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3759/10138797266_91707e16f5_b.jpg Parker Vector Comparison by Geordielass78, on Flickr It is quite a narrow pen, which, added to the unyielding metal section, doesn't always make it the most comfortable to write with for long periods. Because I've spent so much time writing with one, over the years, I don't notice (until too late – i.e. when my hand starts to ache) that it's too small for my hands but, really, I'm more comfortable with a larger pen. For a child who is of an age/skill level to have fully-developed fine-motor skills (i.e. happily uses a fountain pen and always holds it correctly) or a woman with smaller hands, though, this makes a great pen – I just have clodhopper's hands. It's not minuscule and they are very common, both in this model and the similar roller-ball, so it's often used by men (and women with big hands), but for people with relatively large hands there are more comfortable pens out there. In summary, it's a compact pen, but posted it's a very good length for even the largest hands. Unfortunately, even if it was 20-25% fatter, it still couldn't be called a wide pen. It's light, which is often easier, but it's not ideal for prolonged use, unless you have small hands. I don't feel it can have more than 6/10. Nib Performance - 10/10: This nib is used in the Vector and Jotter and was used in the Reflex and others in the past (I can speak for the three pens named, since I have one of each) and I believe it's also currently used in the IM and Urban – in other words, if you have tried a current model Parker in the lower-cost half of their range you will have used one. You'll have your own opinions on it, in that case, but I really like it. It looks undersized to me in the IM and Urban, but here it's in proportion and looks neat and appropriate (I'm afraid I'm back to the dull but worthy language) but this section of the review isn't about how it looks, it's about how it performs. It has almost no spring. However, for a cheap steel nib, it is smooth and a real pleasure to write with. This one has had a lot of time to adapt to my writing style (and for a good proportion of the last decade it was one of only two fountain pens I regularly used, so it has been well broken in) but I don't recall it ever being at all scratchy. My two much newer Parkers with the same nib bear this out. This is a medium, and as this nib was also on my first fountain pen, it is, I think, unconsciously the standard by which I judge whether another medium nib is truly medium or not. When compared to half a dozen other mediums I own, this actually seems quite fair (though my “identical” Jotter nib is a very broad “medium”, so they aren't 100% consistent). Anyway, here is a sample to give you an idea of how it writes (the ink is Diamine Amazing Amethyst, though the colour is slightly off in the photo): http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2853/10134351646_38ec18e8fd_b.jpg Parker Vector Sample by Geordielass78, on Flickr It's got a great feed, no skipping, no hard starting (even left several weeks without using) and is fairly wet, though not a “gusher”. As you can (hopefully) see from the picture, it can produce decent shading with the right ink. All in all, it's a great nib for the money. A true medium, smooth, on the wet side; I can't fault it. I'm giving it 10/10. Filling System/Maintenance - 8/10: With that metal end-cap, it isn't an eyedropper candidate, but if it is likely to be used as a school/work pen, I can recommend the cartridges, for convenience as well as a lot of ink capacity (but not much variety of ink). Parker cartridges are the second most readily available, after the international ones, (in the UK, at least) and they can (apparently, I don't speak from personal experience) also take the far more uncommon Aurora ones. You can get two types of converter for Parkers but I've only ever had the (smaller) basic piston filler version, so I'm not 100% sure if it takes the "deluxe" twist one (I'm fairly sure it does, but help with that, anyone?) The piston filler doesn't hold much ink, which is great if you quickly grow bored with using the same colour, but wouldn't be much use if you were sitting a 3-hour exam or were spending a full day at Uni, taking screeds of notes in every lecture. This isn't the most maintenance-friendly pen. I've regularly cleaned it using water (sometimes with a little washing-up liquid) but have never been able to take the section apart. I tried again recently (I even watched Stephen Brown's disassembly line video for this pen to get some tips) and still couldn't do it. At its age, I'd really appreciate being able to take it apart for a deep clean, especially as it was a work pen used exclusively with black Quink for many years. Quink's well behaved, but I'd still have liked to have given the nib and feed a really thorough clean when I was swapping to lighter inks (to be fair, I just soaked it with a little washing-up liquid in water, overnight, and it seemed fine). (I've never tried, but it may be worth pointing out, to anyone interested, that the Vector has the reputation of being able to deal with inks that should be kept at least a mile away from most other pens. Even if you don't particularly like the pen, you could still choose to buy one for iron-gall inks and others than can be harsh to a more delicate pen's innards. However, if you do try them in it, that could make it even more irksome that you can't take it apart occasionally for a thorough cleaning.) Excellent availability of both cartridges and converter, able to be used with anything short of India ink, but with poor ability to then disassemble it to clean makes this a difficult to score section. However, it doesn't seem to have to be dismantled to remain in a well-maintained condition, so 8/10 is fine, I think. Value for Money - 9/10: If anyone's reading this with an eye to purchasing, it's no good me speaking from the point of view of what I paid 10 years ago, it needs to relate to what I'd pay now. However, the cheapest I've found it new (online) is £4.50 (with a slightly garish print). In plain colours/black, you can find it online for £6.00-£8.00 or £8.00-£10.00 for a flighter (with a small premium to get a fine nib). You'll pay a little more on the high-street. For this price, you are getting a great nib, a robust body, decent inoffensive looks, total reliability and a very recognisable brand. It is an excellent pen for the money and but is narrowly misses out on a 10 because it is rather on the small side and, frankly, is a bit boring, still, it is easily a 9/10. Final Conclusion/Total Score - 8/10: These UK manufactured Parkers all seem to be sturdy and reliable (I'm including my Jotter and Reflex (and previous Vector) in that statement, so it's not quite the sweeping generalisation it may at first seem). These days, you are likely to find Vectors that are made in either France or China, I believe (unless you find NOS). I don't, for a moment, say that the quality is going to be any worse, but I can't comment on whether there will be any difference (for good or ill). All I can do is rate this pen (while referring to my first one too) and it's very good. The average score is 8/10. That seems about right – it has its faults, but over all I have never had serious complaints. As hardy as this pen has proved, I'd recommend the flighter if you want extra toughness – as long as the cost difference remains negligible it's worth it. There are other (more expensive, more attention-grabbing) contenders for someone's first fountain pen, but this one is so easy to lay hands on, pleasant to use and so reliable that I think anyone could (and should) consider it – it's not “excitement, adventure and really wild things!” but it will get the job done, and do it well. Last question - is it a classic? Perhaps. In the sense that it has stood the test of time and is recognisable to an awful lot people, then perhaps that's a "yes".
  2. Quick Review - Wality 71JT Wality 71JT is a gorgeous pen with a solid build, the pen is a bit top heavy but the balance improves once the pen is inked. The only major flaw that I see, is the nib; Don't get me wrong, it's not a particularly unpleasant nib, the nib is rather smooth with little (audible) feedback HOWEVER the nib is extremely rigid and "resists" movement, I would have perhaps liked this nib on a small Camlin pen BUT the 71JT is no small pen, the girthy section and a (relatively) heavy body, together make this nib a major flaw, this is one of the few nibs that make my terrible handwriting look even more horrendous because of the extra effort I need to consciously put while writing; before I denounce the Wality nibs altogether, I need to ink my second 71JT. This might just be a bad nib !! If you're buying this pen online, particularly from Asapens, I would recommend contacting Mr. Subramaniam Lakshminarayanan for a nib upgrade. I repeat, the nib is not necessarily bad; some might even like it in it's current state, (IMHO) it's just not suited for a large, heavy pen such as the 71JT. Hope this was helpful - Aashish
  3. Hey everyone, are there any pens that are Japanese made(or any other maker you can suggest) that have a reliable nib & are under $40? Regards, Rosendust
  4. "My First Love" Several years ago, a black version of this pen was sold in the US as the "College Cartridge Pen". I had discovered fountain pens in my freshman year of college with the Sheaffer Reaktor from Walmart. It was night and day compared to the Bics I used up to that point. This was night and day compared to the Reaktor - the nib was buttery smooth, the feed even and reliable, and it was a joy to write with. For more than half a decade and most of a pen worth of replacement parts, it was with me in my pocket nonstop. I put most of a bottle of Sheaffer Turquoise through that thing. When I sat on it and broke it, I was crushed. (Interestingly, the screw-on cap protects it nicely; I had somehow managed to unscrew it in my pocket before I could break the pen) So was it. I spent an inordinate amount of time and money tracking down the last few of these left on the market, and absolutely did NOT regret doing so. Now I find they're available at Hobby Lobby, for half the price I paid for my first two, and I'm ecstatic. This is probably the best cheap pen on the market. I highly recommend an ink cartridge converter and buying ink by the bottle - you'll like this thing enough that you'll find any excuse to write with it, and if you do any appreciable amount of writing before, well… Also, there are far more shades and colors of ink available in bottles than cartridges; you're sure to find one that suits you. If you prefer the convenience of cartridges, Waterman long cartridges will fit, one at a time; short international cartridges will fit with room for a spare. Cheap generic ink cartridges are available on eBay in bulk for a price that you won't mind paying; they're not quite as cheap as bottled ink, but the difference is pretty small. While this can be considered a "gateway" fountain pen, it stands up to the more expensive pens you may be tempted to upgrade to nicely. Because the cap screws on, it does not dry out quickly; it can be left in a desk as an occasional pen. Because it's so cheap, it makes a wonderful gift for those considering trying a fountain pen, or a loaner you won't cry about losing. You want this pen - trust me. Maybe more than one.
  5. I'm writing this at a very early stage of ownership (about a week), but that's because I may be giving it away soon. For Information: Bought: September 2013, amazon.co.uk(marketplace) for £3.50 inc. p&p (just for reference, I'm not trying to promote amazon) – that's about $5.60/€4.20, at time of writing. On the amazon site, it's just listed as “Schneider Fountain Pen with groovy decoration” - I worked out what model I had bought by going onto www.schneiderpen.de/en. Availability: This is not an easy pen to get hold of on the net, and I've certainly never seen it in shops. Googling, I found a couple of sites (including amazon) in the UK and a few in India that sell it (the Indian sites only sell them in packs of 2-4) plus one Dutch site (for only €1.80!), (I got to the Dutch site via www.schneiderpen.de/en) . A Bit of a Burble: I think I've developed a touch of unaccustomed optimism (I'm usually an unremitting cynic) after buying three extremely decent (new or, at least, recently discontinued NOS) fountain pens in the space of a month for just under £5 each. Then I did that fatal thing... went onto amazon and took notice of their recommendations (anyone who saw my last review may be spotting a slight pattern here). So I blithely went on a cheap pen spending spree, ending up buying this pen, a Bic Easy Click (with a “Hello Kitty” print – oh, dear!) and an ONLINE College set (which has both fountain pen and ink roller-ball sections (and a keyring – ooh!) and another... interesting print) – each for less than £4.00 – I can't resist a bargain and I really have no will power! As it turned out, two of the three had folded steel nibs , and this is one of them. Hmm... I've never had a nib of this type that was even passable before, but shockingly, this one, more or less, is. Only passable, though, it won't win awards for “buttery” smoothness, but for once, I wouldn't have too many qualms about a nib of this type putting off a fountain pen newbie for life. In my experience, that's relatively impressive! For a while now, I've thought that the Platinum Preppy was unparalleled in this price bracket (that's the ultra-extra cheapies, the ones around £3.00) but this pen may have undermined that idea. The Preppy undoubtedly has the better nib but, otherwise, this pen outdoes the Preppy in almost every way. This is very much a school pen (as are all the Schneiders, I guess) and it has been made to be such, so it is an impressively robust package for the money. I've seen several threads that ask about getting a cheap fountain pen for a very young child – this one might be an option if they are likely to break or lose said pen within a month or so – even as inexpensive as it is, I suspect it would survive a reasonable amount of punishment. Only... maybe don't get it in this particular design for a really little one, unless you want him/her to grow up with a bit of a bondage fetish... Appearance/Design: First off here's 2 links to the product page on the Schneider site - http://www.schneiderpen.de/en/products/catalog/subpage/show/fountain-pens-2_voice-135.html & http://www.schneiderpen.de/en/products/catalog/subpage/show/fountain-pens-2_easy-52.html. So why two links? Because, as far as I can tell, the Schneider Easy is exactly the same as the Voice, other than in minor cosmetic ways – so unless someone tells me different, the vast majority of the review can be taken as being for both pens. If I'm wrong, then I'm sorry, perhaps someone may be able to correct me. Here's my pen: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7412/10037281704_996f426692_b.jpg Schneider Voice by Geordielass78, on Flickr OK, so the pattern may not be to everyone's taste, but it's subdued enough not to bother me. You may have different feelings on the subject. To be fair, for £3.99, I could have got it with the swirly gold-on-black pattern (see the first Schneider link) from the same seller – I went for the cheaper one because I didn't dislike it - I think the other design might be more generally acceptable (?), but I also think that this one could be a good choice for a cheap school pen for a teen-aged boy, for instance. The design of this pen is very functional (most of the Schneider pens seem to have a utilitarian simplicity that I like) and the chain design could be seen as reinforcing this by giving it a complimentary industrial feel. It has a straight (patterned) barrel with a plain black end-cap, which has a nice asymmetrical curve to it. The pattern is some sort of hard coating, rather than printed directly onto the barrel, which you can see because there's a “seam” that runs down the back of the barrel – the pattern almost matches up across the seam, but just not quite: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7296/10037323355_a829afdbd4_b.jpg Schneider Voice Seam by Geordielass78, on Flickr This is a serious close up, you shouldn't imagine that it's this noticeable, in reality. The cap is also plain black in the same material as the barrel, while the clip is a matt silver to match the patterning and the top of it has the same asymmetrical curve as the bottom of the barrel. Those two “mirroring” curves are the sort of thoughtful and attractive little design detail I would never have expected in a pen of this price, which impresses me. The curve on the lid continues down into an oversized clip (oversized clips seem to be a design feature of most Schneider pens – this one isn't as big as most, though) – its a very functional clip design, but as with any plastic clip, trying to overstress it by clipping it to anything thicker than, say, a pocket is at you own risk. The barrel and lid are very smooth, with a touch of sheen – almost glossy. The plastics on the ends of both are more matt and are equally pleasant to handle. The section is the best part of the design (especially for a school pen) as it is rubberised and shaped to encourage a “correct” grip. It isn't “handed” but, I believe, it should work equally well for both “righties” and “lefties”. I use a standard right-handed hold and I find it extremely comfortable – especially as it's one of the widest sections on the pens I own. It's worth pointing out that a few years ago I tripped and fell (I was at the gym, on a treadmill, so it was a fairly nasty and excruciatingly embarrassing fall ) and broke the first two fingers on my right hand, just at the lower joints. Ever since, any pen can leave me with stiffness and aching fingers after 15-20 minutes (some sooner), but this one is very comfortable – it doesn't completely alleviate the problem, but it helps. It's worth noting that this is quite a big pen, and the section is in proportion with that, so it's a far better choice for adult hands than a lot of school pens. If he can live with the pattern, I'm thinking about passing this pen on to my Dad to try, as he's finding writing increasingly uncomfortable due to arthritis in his upper finger joints – I may try out a bit of nib smoothing before I do that – but more on that under Nib Performance. The nib is silver-coloured and is, proportionally, probably a bit wider than average (it's a bit short and fat, in other words). It has a breather hole and some attractive detailing, making it a pleasant-looking nib - I have to admit to being surprised at the decoration on such a cheap nib. Its silver-colour matches the design on this pen – in reality it is “reinforced steel” - whatever that means. This is the best I can do with my little point and click camera to give a vague idea of the detailing: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3734/10037314354_218f11ccf6_b.jpg Schneider Voice Nib by Geordielass78, on Flickr How does it score? I like the design, as I said, you can call it functional, utilitarian, industrial, but you couldn't call it edgy, or funky, (or groovy, no matter what the description says - that's WAY too Austin Powers, anyway) even though something like that was intended, with that pattern. However, give me functionality over funky any day of the week! As a child's school pen, I would certainly choose the Edge's colours over these Voice ones – assuming both were available to me – they weren't at the time. Oh, yes, I'm supposed to be giving it a score... hmm... you certainly can't score a £3.50 pen using the same criteria as a £350 or a £35 pen. So actually, I'm going to say that, for the cost, this pen looks good (the only slight negatives are that print and the barrel “seam”) and has some truly great design features (the section, especially). What's not to like? 9/10 Construction/Quality: After looking at the Schneider site, it appears that they have five (very finely) graduated “ranks” of school fountain pen up to the “posh” school pen/workaday office pen that is the ID. This is the second level – still very cheap, but not something that could be treated almost as a disposable (in my opinion). I don't say that that's what their lowest tier pen is, but it lacks some of the features (the main one being the ergonomic grip section) that this pen has. In terms of quality, this pen was a very pleasant surprise. Yes it is all plastic, but that plastic doesn't feel terribly cheap, it feels very solidly build and it's clearly made to survive a year or two of being rattled around in a school bag. I'm pretty certain it would do that too. Having just typed those words, I felt a bit experimental, so I threw my pen on the (carpeted) floor and stood on the barrel (OK, in bare feet, but still, I'm what is euphemistically known as a “big girl”) and it has taken no harm – so I imagine it could be knocked onto the floor and then accidentally kicked a couple of metres across a classroom floor without smashing into smithereens. The material of the lid is a bit thinner (unlike some Schneiders the lid isn't oversized here, only the clip) and I could probably smash that by stepping on it, if it was on its own – so I'm not going to try. The barrel's all plastic, but in two parts, so while I was in experimental mode I filled it two thirds full of water and watched the water leak away between the main barrel and the end-cap – so this isn't an eyedropper candidate. As I said, the section is rubbery and shaped (partially flattened in three areas) to encourage a proper grip. Again it punches above its weight in terms of value for money; it feels great to me, but of course, we have the old (Lamy Safari-esque) problem that pens like this present for anyone who doesn't use a standard grip. The one very obvious place in which the quality of the pen falls down is the folded steel nib – I won't go into detail on performance here, but folded steel still has the reputation (usually correctly, in my opinion) of only being found on cheap and nasty pens. This pen is cheap but certainly isn't nasty, so to my mind it is a real shame that it isn't “iridium” tipped. I believe that the Vpen/Varsity has a properly tipped nib, (please correct me if I'm wrong), so if a “disposable” can, this pen certainly should have. One positive thing about the nib that I can mention is that the “reinforced steel” toughness may have a basis in fact. Pearl (the cat in my avatar pic) is great at running right in front of me and tripping me – she did that while I had the pen uncapped in my hand, doing a shopping list, a couple of days ago. I was stepping towards the fridge to check on something, she runs, I stumble, the pen flies out of my hand and hits the (hard) floor nib down – and no problems at all afterwards! Again, a pretty positive sign for a school pen! National stereotypes are generally invidious, but one of the positive ones is that German engineering is top-notch – this pen is a great example of how to engineer a cheap pen to feel much higher quality than the price suggests. The nib is the one flaw (even though it's one of the best folded steel examples I've come across). 8/10 Size and Weight: It's a light pen - about the same weight as a Parker Vector, but much larger. It's not huge, but it is (marginally) the biggest pen I own right now and definitely above average sized. Here are a few pictures that show it with a Platinum Preppy and a Parker Vector, for comparison: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7420/10037360876_c596ea7d2f_b.jpg Schneider Voice Comparison by Geordielass78, on Flickr It is pen with quite a large diameter, which, when added to the ergonomic section makes it very pleasant to hold and adds to its usability as a school pen. It's light enough to write either posted or unposted without feeling too much difference in weight, but, while it isn't impossibly large when using it posted, it's probably going to be better to use it unposted, for almost everyone. Lidless is certainly going to be better for the vast majority of school children. It's a great size, unposted, and only slightly unwieldy when posted – that may be more than slight if you are buying it for a small child, but they'll be fine if they just don't post the lid. It's also a light pen, which is much easier in many circumstances (especially for small children). 8/10 Nib Performance: In one sentence: Good for folded steel, but barely mediocre if you've ever used a half-decent nib! What helps it attain even mediocrity, I think, is that it has a wet feed and nib and it is on the broad side of medium, whatever Schneider may call it (they say medium). The wet feed/nib stops the nib being scratchy. Well, it doesn't exactly scratch but does give a lot of feedback. Personally I prefer smoothness and minimal feedback, but this isn't too bad – I can easily live with it. Actually, perhaps there is a touch of scratch there, as it does pick up the odd paper fibre from the page – if you look very closely you may be able to see the effects of that on the "caused" and the last “fundamentally” in the second quotation in this sample: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7359/10037309454_733e3383d4_b.jpg Schneider Voice Sample by Geordielass78, on Flickr As I said, definitely the broad side of medium – the ink's the royal blue washable cartridge that came with it. (Sorry, the printing isn't too bad, but the other's not fantastic, I know). I mentioned, that I was thinking about giving the pen to my Dad who is suffering from arthritis in his hands. I don't really think that the nib is quite good enough, so I'm going to spend a bit of time smoothing it off... As with the eyedropper testing, I'm actually doing what I'm typing about between paragraphs – so after about 5 minutes of smoothing, I now have quite an acceptable nib here. Still a fair amount of feedback, but it's lost any hint of scratch and, so far, it seems to have stopped picking up paper fibres. It actually seems very slightly less broad too – because it no longer is getting fuzzed up with paper fibres, perhaps??? Well anyway, RESULT! In general, this is giving a decent writing experience now, and I'm very far from hating it, but I could never love it. The toughness, mentioned above, in a school pen's nib has to count in its favour too. Before smoothing, then, this nib was a 5/10, after, I'll make it a 6/10. I'm going to have a go at using this for the rest of today, and I may come back in a few hours and change that score after a bit more extensive use of the newly smoothed nib. (Note that I've added an extra point to each of these scores because it's a school pen and the nib seems durable) Filling System/Maintenance: It came with a short international standard cartridge of royal blue washable ink, which I decided to use, to see what the Schneider ink was like – it's a very standard sort of blue, nothing bad, but not exciting (see above). It has a great big barrel, so no problems there, in using a long cartridge or a converter. I've had no reason to take the section apart, but what I did have to do, until I smoothed the nib, was floss between the end of the tines to get rid of paper fibre, periodically. A child at school may not know what was wrong or how to mend it if they do realise when this happens. (I can remember managing to floss tines with a bit of paper as a kid, but it was damned hard to do!) It's only 7/10, as I can't comment on all the basic maintenance aspects and, left unsmoothed, the nib needed tine-flossing every so often, depending on the paper. However, it does have the advantage of the easiest to find/cheapest cartridges and can happily take a converter. Value for Money: £3.50? That's very roughly what you'd pay for a pint in a city pub (a bit less than you'd pay in bigger cities!) For that, you are getting a very solidly built pen that, with a little care not to lose it, ought to survive at least a year of going back and forth to school, or can probably survive in a pen pot on a desk for a fair bit longer. My first experience of fountain pens was with untipped calligraphy nibs and I've had the occasional folded steel cheapo over the years and I can't say I've ever come close to wearing an untipped nib right down, but I believe it can happen. For this money, who's really going to care? Bin it and get another. Your son/daughter loses it after 6 weeks at school? You might grumble a bit, but getting another isn't going to be a massive problem, really, is it? It honestly is a very good pen for the money and only misses out on a 10/10 in the value stakes because of that nib. 8 or 9? Oh, well, it's only £3.50 so – 9/10 Final Conclusion/Total Score: I got a couple of free Schneider biros (which I've not really used) with my last two orders from Cult Pens, but other than that I've had no previous experience of the brand. I'm really very impressed. So, OK, the nib isn't everything I might desire, but at this end of the price scale there will always be compromises and the nib is the compromise here. If you own a nail buffer that includes 12,000 grit micro mesh (what I used for my bit of inexpert smoothing) you can buy this and have confidence that you can make it very acceptable as a basic writer – the quality of all other aspects of the pen, for the money, is excellent. Can I recommend it? Totally, and without reservation, if you own the aforementioned nail buffer. A great school pen and also a pretty decent one for most adults – especially as it isn't sized so that it can only be used by little hands. With just a very little work on the nib this could easily be given to anyone as a pen to let them try using a fountain pen for the first time. The overall average score reflects my feeling about this pen at 8/10 (That score still rounds to 8 whether it's smoothed or unsmoothed – 7.666 or 7.833, to be more precise.)
  6. Geordielass

    Pentel Tradio (Metal Nib)

    This is my first review, so I'd appreciate any constructive criticism, please. Sorry it's so long, but I thought that since no-one else has reviewed this pen, I'd try to be comprehensive. Bought: September 2013, amazon.co.uk (marketplace) for £4.99 inc. p&p (I'm not plugging amazon, it's just for reference) – that's about $8, at time of writing. If you have an amazon account, you'll probably know that, when you log in, it gives you recommendations. That's how I found this pen – usually I just ignore them, but this came up and it seemed like a smart-looking pen for £4.99, so I thought I'd just have a look, not to buy it, of course, just have a quick look... honest... Anyway, one of my “every day” pens is on it's last legs, so I thought this might be an interesting cheap one to try. (Funny, I went on to see if they did a specific book for kindle and came away with a pen – bad habit that). In the picture, it looked like metal, but the site was clear that it was only plastic, so I wasn't too disappointed when it arrived and discovered it was very plasticky indeed. OK, I was, because you can get decent quality plastics fairly cheaply, and this isn't made of those, but I consoled myself that when you pay about the same for a pen as you would for a McDonald's meal (personally, I'd rather eat the pen, but that's beside the point) you shouldn't get sniffy about the looks, as long as it does the job. Which it does, it definitely does. I was very pleasantly surprised by the nib once I started writing with it. Anyway, I'll move onto a “proper” structured review format to give more details. Appearance/Design: First off here's a link which shows all the colours you can get it in – http://www.cultpens.com/acatalog/Pentel-Tradio-Fountain-Pen.html#a17758. As you can see, it isn't £4.99 everywhere! Here's some pictures of mine: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3672/9896858264_a374e7c22d_b.jpg Tradio by Geordielass78, on Flickr It has a “cigar” shape, with a “step” towards the end of the barrel. I assumed the step must be to do with posting the cap securely and but I've given it a damned good push to try to get it to click on and it definitely doesn't. The clip is just moulded as part of the top, so it really doesn't have a lot of give – you should be able to clip it onto a shirt pocket, but I haven't tried anything much thicker as I doubt it could cope. The “hole” in the cap is a window made of clear plastic, through which you can see the nib, that's no problem, but it looks slightly dusty (it's actually a touch of condensation, I think). The nib itself is two-tone – it wouldn't even occur to me to question this if I hadn't seen the picture of the other pens which don't have two-tone nibs. Since everything else on the pen is silver-coloured, why stick some gold paint on the nib? Very minor gripe, that one, though. OK, the plastic... It's not the nicest looking stuff. The inside of the barrel is plain white plastic, so the outside is some sort of coating/paint and is supposed to look like chrome I guess... and if were looking at it from right at the other end of the room, I suppose it would. Basically it looks like what it is, a cheap pen. The section again looks fine at first glance, but again is a bit too shiny and, for want of a better word, too plasticky as well. The problem with all this shininess is, of course that unless you polish it (I gave it a quick rub with a cloth before I took the photos) it tends to look all smeared with finger prints. It can't be helped, but it's why I always prefer metal (or, in this case, faux-metal) pens with a matt finish. I also worry that in a year or so, unless I'm very very careful, that coating will be all chipped (and the whole point of an “every day” pen, for me, is to have one that I can just push it into the pocket of my handbag, right next to my keys, and not be bothered about it). I've only had it for three weeks and so far so good, but I've mostly had it in a pencil case. I suspect part of the problem is the finish on this. I'm only going by that Cult Pens picture, but I think I'd like it better without the shiny coating, in a different finish, this section of the review might well have had a lot less complaining and more about the cheerful, fun colourfulness, great for kids, that sort of thing. (Actually, the only other colour on amazon is green, and it is a couple of quid more, so I doubt I would have bought it, it was that attractive “under a fiver” that spurred me to impulse buy). How would I score it? If I'd payed full RRP (£16.50 or £18.84, depending on where you look), I'd be giving this about 3/10, it looks cheap, but for £4.99, I'll add a point – you can't get too upset when something that was very cheap looks it. Also, I like the design, I just think the materials don't do it justice, so perhaps another point is in order. So 5/10. Construction/Quality: As cheap as it looks, once you get past that, it seems far from badly-made for the money. Again, whether the outer coating chips away in the next few months may mean a score that gets revised downwards in the quality stakes, but aside from that it is made of smooth plastic, with no rough edges, and while you can see a fine seam running up the cap it is very fine and doesn't really bother me. There aren't any seams on other parts, by the way. The two rings at the “join” between the barrel and section are the only metal on the pen (apart from the nib). They are very smooth and are polished to try to look like the outer coating (they are a shade or two greyer, so on close inspection they don't, but they aren't a bad try. The barrel's all plastic which would make it a great eyedropper candidate, except that it has tiny breather holes in the bottom, so maybe not. Then again, the holes are inside a small “indent” so that should allow you to plug the holes from the outside as well as the inside for extra security, so perhaps you could still use it that way. The section is very smooth, and if I'd got the pen a couple of weeks earlier I'd have been able to tell you if it was too smooth for sweaty hands in hot weather (we've had an unusually hot and humid summer in the UK, but it's cooler now). I'd rather have something slightly less smooth, but it's no worse than many inexpensive pens and once I'm writing I tend to forget that because of the nib. Ah the nib – this is the saving grace of this pen. I have to admit I wasn't expecting too much but, boy, was I surprised! I'll save the details for the “Nib Performance” section but even if this is a cheap and cheerful nib, it's very cheerful, and writes like a high quality one. I'll make this a 6/10, since the nib is really scored elsewhere. Size and Weight: It's a light pen and what I would call “average” sized. I'll put a couple of pictures here that show it with a Platinum Preppy and my Parker Vector, (I think most people will have some idea of the size of at least one of those pens), for comparison: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5333/9896817425_ae047a71c3_b.jpg Tradio Comparison by Geordielass78, on Flickr It isn't heavy, though a little heavier than the Preppy, it's roughly the same weight as the Vector (and my Parker Reflex, for that matter), if that's any help. The section is broad enough to make it a comfortable pen to hold, so I could imagine someone taking notes in an hour-long lecture without much cramping, for instance. It's light enough to write either posted or unposted without feeling much difference, but it is more than long enough to hold comfortably without posting (bear in mind that I have very big hands for a woman, larger than some men I know). It's a great size, not too big to be cumbersome and not too slim to be difficult to hold for prolonged periods. It's also a light pen, which is much easier in many circumstances (I quite like a heavy pen, but even so, this weight is great for longer writing sessions). No pen can please everyone, so I can only give a subjective 9/10 from me. Nib Performance: Very very good for the money. It's a medium – well it actually doesn't say, which sent me to pentel.co.uk to try to check it, they don't list the pen, so I went back to amazon, and they say that it's a medium, then two bullet points later they say it's medium-fine. Pentel are Japanese, so that probably means that it's a Japanese medium, which seems about right - definitely a lot closer to fine than broad. I feel I need to make that clear, because I always assume that a finer nib means a higher chance of scratchiness (maybe I'm wrong, but that has been my experience) and this isn't scratchy at all! This isn't like my Faber-Castell, which is unbelievably smooth for a steel nib, but it come closer than I could have expected. The Vector in the pictures is 12 or 14 years old - lots of time to work out the kinks and adapt to my idiosyncrasies – and it's smooth with good flow, but the Tradio is just as good, straight out of the box. It isn't a wet nib, but it certainly isn't too dry either, basically just has good, unremarkable ink-flow, without ever skipping etc. Definitely 10/10 for this money! Filling System/Maintenance: It came with a long international standard cartridge of blue ink, which I decided to use to see what the Pentel ink was like (or whatever it is they use) – it's a nice bright cheerful blue. Since it can take a long cartridge, it can, then, also take a converter (though I'm still on the cartridge, I'd forgotten how much a long one holds!). I've only had it three weeks and I've had no reason to take it apart so I can't comment on how easy it is to disassemble the feed/nib etc. I'll try to add that later as/when it becomes necessary. It's only 8/10, as I can't comment on all the basic maintenance aspects, but it does have the advantage of the easiest to find/cheapest cartridges and can happily take a converter. Value for Money: Since I was on amazon checking the nib size, I double checked the price, and it's risen in price – it's now £5.00 instead of £4.99. Inflation's terrible! So, I can still evaluate this as a fountain pen for a fiver. If the quality of the plastics was even slightly better, I think I could give this 10/10 at this money, especially since it has a brilliant nib, but good as it is, the rest of the pen must count for something, so I'll give it 9/10 instead. Final Conclusion/Score: I don't think Pentel are offering it any more (I checked both pentel.co.uk and pentel.com, neither has it listed) so if you fancy giving it a whirl you'll need to get it fairly soon. If you do like the look of it, do try it out, it really is a shame that there's no indication that Pentel will be using that nib again in an inexpensive fountain pen in the future. Can I recommend it? Absolutely, as long as you don't pay anywhere near the RRP. I think it would be especially good for students and high-school pupils in the bright colours, but anyone could be happy with that nib, it just depends on whether you are looking for utility or a status symbol, really. The overall score reflects that at 8/10. NB I also have a Pentel Tradio “Stylo”, the delta nib “fountain pen” (the one that is actually a fibre tip - and seems like the offspring of an illicit liason between a felt-tip and this pen) that I could also review if anyone would like me to, let me know if you would. I promise I'd try to keep it a bit shorter!

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