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Romillo Nervión


mongrelnomad
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When we think of pen manufacturing in Europe, no doubt we tend to think of Germany, of Italy, perhaps - if your tastes tend towards the vintage, or you've been in this game for a while - the UK. The rest appears a wasteland, and yet from one of the unsung corners of the continent hails probably the most interesting manufacturer outside of Japan.

 

As is the way, I came across Romillo through this fair madhouse of ours. A relative enigma, this Spanish brand was alluded to only occasionally, and even the few lines were seldom accompanied by as much as a photograph. Further research pointed to a series of pretty if plain ebonite pens, and the idea of them never really piqued my imagination.

 

But then, new rumblings. This tiny cottage manufacturer was doing the unthinkable and ignoring decades of received wisdom: they were manufacturing their own nibs. As if that were not brazen enough in itself, these nibs were produced entirely by hand (other so-called 'handmade' nibs are only hand-finished). 18k gold and available in sizes 7 and 9, the latter was even larger than the hallowed nib on Montblanc's 149.

 

It had to be done. An eMail was sent to Álvaro, patron and namesake to Romillo. After a brief discussion, I settled upon the Nervión, the company's largest pen and, of course, blessed with its largest nib. Hand lathed from ebonite stock, it is available in black, terracotta, wood-grain, and my own personal choice: blue-black ripple.

 

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The nib choice was more difficult. Being hand-made, the usual rigid constraints disappear. Oblique triple-broad flexible cursive-italic? Nah. I'm boring, and so I chose and Extra Fine, though I could not decide between a 'rigid' or 'semi-flex' example. I'm not a fan of esoteric and overly-exotic nibs (I find they tend to be quickly relegated to the drawer), and I've had bad experiences with too-flexible nibs in the past, so I opted for the 'rigid' nib. More on this choice later...

 

Money paid, approximately one month later: the pen arrived in Tel-Aviv.

 

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I usually don't comment on the packaging of pens, finding it at best pretty frivolity, and at worst, lipstick on a pig. But in Romillo's case I will make an exception. The pen itself came wrapped in a black felt wrap laid within a beautifully manufactured wooden box. The slide-out top is held in place with cord that nestles in its own carved channel: just enough space for storing the pen and its eyedropper. Yes, Romillo makes their pens either cartridge-converter or eyedropper-filler. Form an orderly queue please. Also packaged within the parcel was a gargantuan gold and black pen kimono - perhaps inspired by Nakaya - a completely unnecessary addition. An odd mis-step considering the perfectly judged nature of the rest.

 

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So, to the main event: the pen.

 

I'm not the biggest fan of ebonite as a material with which to manufacture an entire pen. It can be dull and lifeless, inhabiting that weird neighbourhood of not-quite-glossy-not-quite-matt. I recently disposed of a Conway Stewart (RIP) Marlborough Vintage LE for exactly this reason. Ebonite is not without it appeal though: its tactility is its strength. It is soft and warm, and I am a huge fan of manufacturers that use it exclusively for the 'touch points' of their pens (yes, like Hakase), or the hidden structure beneath. And that ebonite smell is beguiling... pungent and welcoming and completely unlike anything else.

 

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Somehow, and in-spite of my misgivings, the Nervión manages to pull it off. Unadorned by jewellery (apart from the sold gold nipple roll-stopper), the cleans lines make the material work. and seems to recast the ebonite's simple idiosyncrasy upon its own terms.

 

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The only other embellishment is the sold gold emblem embedded in the barrel's tail. It is this detail alone (other than minor adjustments in length and girth) that separates the Nervión from the very similar Eo, and while I was initially worried that its weight would throw off what otherwise promised to be a very light pen, I needn't have worried. Not only is it a beautiful detail and, in my opinion, one of the defining features of the pen, it doesn't throw off the pen's lovely balance, as so much of the weight is up by the nib.

 

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Compared to the 149 and M800.

I know the pen is completely hand-made, but that does not mean it is flawless. Where the barrel swells and narrows there are surprisingly visible scratches from the lathe, and the number stamped on the rear (I assume this is the serial number) is unexpectedly rudimentary. Nothing deal-breaking, but disappointing, still.

 

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The lathe-marks.

But you care nothing for my disappointments. I care nothing for my disappointments. They fade to nothingness when in the presence of that nib. It is... astounding. In my time, buying, using, pseudo-collecting, I have never seen anything like it this side of a Namiki Imperial. It is simply breathtaking, so long and slender and tapering with such delicate tines and elegant curves, so daintily engraved. But a nib is nothing if it can't write...

 

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Nib size compared to M800 and 149.

Yes it does, like no nib manufactured in the last fifty years. I said earlier that I requested a 'firm' EF, but the lexicon of this nib does not adhere to our modern vocabulary. It is soft, springy, more flexible even than any modern flexible nib I use or have owned, but without that snappy, violent recoil to which we have grown accustomed. This is no wet-noodle, but the feel, the spirit, reminds me of my pink Waterman 7. Yes, I am saying that of a pen manufactured in 2014.

 

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it is broader than I would have liked (a European Fine at normal angle and normal pressure) and I have yet to truly master its angles and sensitivity. These are my personal issues, though, and nothing to do with the nib itself. I have contacted Álvaro regarding grinding the nib to a finer point and he has said he would be happy to do so, and can create any width desired on receipt of a writing sample. No doubt this is something I will have to try.

 

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But no mind my failings; this pen is doubtless the single most unique writing experience at the sharp end that I've ever had. The feed - also handsome and handmade - has had no problems keeping up with the (rather gorgeous Romillo blue) ink, even when the tines are fully spread under heavy pressure. Although I have emptied the pen entirely of its capacity through use, I have never had a problem with ink blobbing as I write, a problem common to eyedroppers.

 

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That isn't to say that the filling mechanism has been problem free. This is my first eyedropper without a shut-off valve, but I was assured by Álvaro that there was no danger of... upsets in normal use. The ink reservoir is secured by an o-ring that meets the beautifully machined brass, but that has not avoided two unfortunate ejaculations of ink. Thankfully, neither leak escaped the cap, and one was the result of rather extreme barometric conditions (a quick decent from the hills of Jerusalem to the Dead Sea). Worryingly, though, the other occurred after no more than a simple bounce around Tel-Aviv in my backpack. Again, hardly damning, but disappointing.

 

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The O-ring.

No, my experience with the Nervión has not been perfect, and I have not bonded with it in quite the same way as I have with my Hakases, but it is a pen I would not hesitate for an instant to recommend or to purchase again. Romillo is such a unique prospect, its pens are so different, and its nibs so without precedent or peer, that the question of price ceases to be a good representation of value. The two most unique aspects of this pen - that nib, that filling system - can also be had with the company's Essential 9 model (local VAT included) for the price of a new Writer's Edition from Montblanc. Which would you prefer to have?

 

For me, that is a decision with a simple answer.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. Following requests, I have conducted a separate comparative review of Nakaya, Romillo and Hakase in order to provide an overview of the daunting task of commissioning a custom pen. If you are interested, it can be found here.

Edited by mongrelnomad

Too many pens; too little writing.

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Great review! I can't wait to receive my Essential no 9.

 

What is it about Hakases that makes you "bond" with them? I look at a Romillo and I get it right away...simple design with a beautiful hand made nib. I look at a Hakase and many are beautiful pens but when I look at the prices I think I must be missing something. Pilot nib on a wood or horn body with small solid gold accents = $1600+ ? There must be a hidden X factor that only comes from interacting with the pen and person.

 

I will get a Hakase at some point but I admit I struggle with it more than a $1,000 Nakaya or my Romillo and it's not the money it's just that it's hard to understand its value from looking at pictures online.

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Well written and complete review mongrel nomad !

Very nice pen, and…... that nib looks simply wonderful.

Francis

 

Thanks Francis. I hope to do the same for one of my Conid pens. As a small manufacturer of wonderful products, it is the least I can do...

Too many pens; too little writing.

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Great review! I can't wait to receive my Essential no 9.

 

What is it about Hakases that makes you "bond" with them? I look at a Romillo and I get it right away...simple design with a beautiful hand made nib. I look at a Hakase and many are beautiful pens but when I look at the prices I think I must be missing something. Pilot nib on a wood or horn body with small solid gold accents = $1600+ ? There must be a hidden X factor that only comes from interacting with the pen and person.

 

I will get a Hakase at some point but I admit I struggle with it more than a $1,000 Nakaya or my Romillo and it's not the money it's just that it's hard to understand its value from looking at pictures online.

 

I can understand that. Yet in my other review I speak of 'specialness' - that is what sets Hakase apart IMO, something that can only be understood once the pen is handled, used, become familiar with...

Too many pens; too little writing.

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Congrats for this beautifull acquisition!!

What frightens me a bit is the eyedropper system.

The hand made nib idea is very attractive though.

I think we need more of this kind of added value products , like bulkfiller ,...

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You had me at flexible O3B italic. This is the same size as my Spirit and the nib reminds me why I love my Ancoras. Hmmmm

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You had me at flexible O3B italic. This is the same size as my Spirit and the nib reminds me why I love my Ancoras. Hmmmm

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Thank you for an excellent review Mongrelnomad, truly helpful and insightful.

 

One thing I am slightly alarmed about is the flexibility of this "firm" grade nib. The line variation in the writing sample is at worst noticeable :)

 

I want a firm nib - the custom aspect surely must mean that Romillo can deliver on this if I follow through with my intention to order in November? Welcome your thoughts on this.

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This is an enlightening review, but just a bit shocking. I expected that if you plunk down over a thousand dollars for a handmade fountain pen, what you will get will be spot-on: impeccably crafted, a personalized nib, and flawless. Mongrelnomad asked whether I would prefer a Romillo Essential 9 to a Montblanc writer's edition. I had never thought of buying a Montblanc, but the Johannes Brahms is a beautiful pen and the specifications are just about right for me. Given what I have read here, he should not be too quick to assume that I would choose the Romillo over a Brahms plus a lifetime of ink. On the other hand, I might be making too much of a single review and look forward to reading what Keyless Works has to say once his Romillo arrives.

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Thank you for an excellent review Mongrelnomad, truly helpful and insightful.

 

One thing I am slightly alarmed about is the flexibility of this "firm" grade nib. The line variation in the writing sample is at worst noticeable :)

 

I want a firm nib - the custom aspect surely must mean that Romillo can deliver on this if I follow through with my intention to order in November? Welcome your thoughts on this.

My guess is that the No 7 nib is going to be more firm. Large nibs lend themselves to being softer than small nibs. Also from looking at mongrelnomad's writing sample I suspect that the line variation he is getting comes from applying more pressure than you normally would to a "semi-flex"-ish nib but it's clearly not a nail.

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Not that I am a nib expert or anything, but with a nib that has such long tines, I imagine it's still going to be at least a soft nib. I suspect it would be impossible to make the nib stiff with it's current design. I am guessing Romillo would have to drastically shorten the tines, and also modify the feed.

 

According to what I have heard, and not being a Romillo owner, does having ink in direct contact with brass parts make it susceptible to rusting, and corrosion? I have to say it's an unusual design. Even the giant Namiki Emperor pen that's an eye dropper is all ebonite.

 

As to the comment of pens leaking, I travel quite a bit for work and have always carried 4-5 pens with me. On my previous trips, I only carried modern pens and those that have modern plastic feeds. They all did very well adjusting to cabin pressure during take off and landing. I did not do anything special with regard to positioning the pens. This last trip, I also brought along 2 pens that were different. One was a modern pen with a hand cut ebonite feed, and one vintage nib with a vintage feed in a modern body. While the modern plastic feed pens again faired well, the vintage feed and hand cut ebonite feed unfortunately leaked.

 

So hearing that your pen leaked actually would be normal if it were put under pressure.

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What a fantastic review with beautifully clear pictures. I love how you leave a question hanging at the end. I respect these guys for making their own nibs and not using boring generic nibs which is my pet peeve with most handmade fountain pens. That nib looks nice and huge with long tines which makes me suspect that it may be at the very least, a little bit soft and springy if not flexy.

 

Thing is though..I didn't find the ebonite pen to be nicely polished at all..it seemed rather..unfinished..tbh..

 

It would have been so much better if they just made this pen a cartridge converter rather than a messy eye dropper.

 

Hmm..it is a little conflicting though, as much as I hope you enjoy your pen, for the price these guys charge, I'd be able to buy a nice MB with solid resale value..Oh well..Just my two cents!

Fountain pens are like weapons. They just make your pocket bleed so much.

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Another point is actually the kimono was probably a necessary addition. This pen is massive. Most pen cases don't even fit the MB 149, and his is so much bigger. If they didn't provide you with a case, how were you going to carry your pen around?

Fountain pens are like weapons. They just make your pocket bleed so much.

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What a fantastic review with beautifully clear pictures. I love how you leave a question hanging at the end. I respect these guys for making their own nibs and not using boring generic nibs which is my pet peeve with most handmade fountain pens. That nib looks nice and huge with long tines which makes me suspect that it may be at the very least, a little bit soft and springy if not flexy.

 

Thing is though..I didn't find the ebonite pen to be nicely polished at all..it seemed rather..unfinished..tbh..

 

It would have been so much better if they just made this pen a cartridge converter rather than a messy eye dropper.

 

Hmm..it is a little conflicting though, as much as I hope you enjoy your pen, for the price these guys charge, I'd be able to buy a nice MB with solid resale value..Oh well..Just my two cents!

 

The website states that they do cartridge/converter or eyedropper but when I inquired I was informed that a cartridge/converter is unable to keep up with a No 9 nib so eye dropper is the only option.

 

It seems strange to me to buy a fountain pen because of resale value...I suppose if you are unsure about liking the pen that might have some weight but I just buy what looks interesting and sell off the pens start collecting dust. Comparing a Romillo to a MB is like comparing an off the rack Brioni suit to a bespoke Kilgour suit. Both will cost about the same but they have an entirely different appeal.

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The website states that they do cartridge/converter or eyedropper but when I inquired I was informed that a cartridge/converter is unable to keep up with a No 9 nib so eye dropper is the only option.

 

It seems strange to me to buy a fountain pen because of resale value...I suppose if you are unsure about liking the pen that might have some weight but I just buy what looks interesting and sell off the pens start collecting dust. Comparing a Romillo to a MB is like comparing an off the rack Brioni suit to a bespoke Kilgour suit. Both will cost about the same but they have an entirely different appeal.

Well there you go..if and when the pen does collect dust, as some pens eventually do..I mean who truly knows that the pen you like is going to be one you will use for the rest of your life? How are you going to sell it if there isn't any significant resale value?

 

The Romillo is also a pen that you won't get a chance to handle before buying..For all you know, you may dislike it from the very start..How are you going to sell it then?

Fountain pens are like weapons. They just make your pocket bleed so much.

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Comparing a Romillo to a MB is like comparing an off the rack Brioni suit to a bespoke Kilgour suit. Both will cost about the same but they have an entirely different appeal.

 

The question, which I pose respectfully, is whether the Romillo line is closer to Saville Row or to Tonganoxie. It was Mongrelnomad who initially drew the comparison. His honest description of his Nervion has left me rather uneasy. Thus far, I find myself drawn a bit to Montblanc, which I assure you was completely unanticipated, and I am now put somewhat aback by ebonite pens and feeds. But this is an early appraisal and I look forward to learning a good deal more, especially once your very own Romillo is sitting on your desk. I'll bet you are counting the days.

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The website states that they do cartridge/converter or eyedropper but when I inquired I was informed that a cartridge/converter is unable to keep up with a No 9 nib so eye dropper is the only option.

 

It seems strange to me to buy a fountain pen because of resale value...I suppose if you are unsure about liking the pen that might have some weight but I just buy what looks interesting and sell off the pens start collecting dust. Comparing a Romillo to a MB is like comparing an off the rack Brioni suit to a bespoke Kilgour suit. Both will cost about the same but they have an entirely different appeal.

Also, a suit probably isn't the best metaphor as who wants to buy a second hand suit? :/ Perhaps there is a market out there but I kinda doubt it..

Fountain pens are like weapons. They just make your pocket bleed so much.

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