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Pen Pit Stop : Visconti Van Gogh "starry Night"


namrehsnoom
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Pen Pit Stop : Visconti Van Gogh Starry Night


Welcome to the Pen Pit Stop. Here you will find reviews of pens that already have some mileage on them. More specifically, these reviews are of pens that are in my personal collection, and that have been in use for at least a year. I thought it would be fun to do it this way - no new & shiny pens here, but battered vehicles that have been put to work for at least a year. Let's find out how they have withstood the ravages of time.


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The fountain pen that arrives at the pit stop today is the "Visconti Van Gogh Starry Night". Visconti is an Italian company, that was founded in 1988 in Florence by Dante Del Vecchio and Luigi Poli, collectors of fountain pens for many years. Their products represented the rediscovery and relaunch of celluloid as the material for fountain pens (from Wikipedia).


I bought this pen in August 2014, in the early days of my fountain pen hobby. This was my first "expensive" pen, that exceeded the 100 EUR barrier. But I liked the looks of it, and took the jump. The pen has been in use for several years now. Let's have a closer look at it.


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Pen Look & Feel

The pen uses a beautiful "swirly" material, that takes its colour palette from the Vincent Van Gogh painting "Starry Night" (1889, oil on canvas). This work depicts the view outside Van Gogh's room window at the village of Saint-Remy de Provence, France. The name of the painting and artist are engraved around the pen's cap band. The pen body utilizes Visconti's unique eighteen-faceted design. It also features the famous Visconti clip, which represents the Ponte Vecchio bridge.


The pen cap uses a magnetic click-on system, that attaches securely to the pen body. I've read about potential problems with the magnets detaching. But no worries, my magnetic cap is still in pristine condition. Fountain pens like this one are meant to be treated gently, in which case they will last for years. Uncapping the pen reveals a metal grip section. This is one aspect of the pen that I'm not fond of. I would have preferred a grip section in the same swirly material as the rest of the body.


My original pen came with a fine nib... that didn't work: scratchy, ink just stopped flowing. A really, really bad nib. Could have been just bad luck, but I had the same problem with a Visconti Rembrandt, also with an F-nib. I replaced the nib with a broader M-nib, that is barely tolerable. Still on the scratchy side, but at least the ink flow is ok. Quality control on the steel Visconti nibs seems sub-par, at least in my personal experience (50% failure rate, and the other 50% is only just so-so).


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The pictures above illustrate the size of my Starry Night pen in comparison with a standard Lamy AL-star. Capped and uncapped, both pens are roughly equal in size. Posted, the Visconti is definitely smaller than the Lamy pen - the Van Gogh posts deeply. The pen is certainly big enough to be handled unposted, which is how I personally use it.


Pen Characteristics


  • Build Quality : the pen is well-built, and shows little wear after several years of (admittedly intermittent) use. A pity about the metal grip section, which looks a bit cheap. This should have been made from the same "swirly" material as the rest of the pen body.
  • Weight & Dimensions : the pen uses metal parts in its construction, which give it extra weight. The weight is concentrated in the cap and grip section. The pen feels rather heavy, especially when you are used to light-weight pens like the Lamy Safari/AL-star or Pelikan M200/M400. Being about as big as a Lamy Safari, this is a good-sized pen that fits comfortably in any hand.
  • Filling System : this is a cartridge convertor pen, that uses standard international cartridges. The pen body unscrews from the grip section - the threading parts are from metal, so there is little risk for wear & tear.
  • Nib & Performance : the nib looks beautiful with its fine scrollwork and crescent-moon shaped breathing hole. But as I stated above, the nibs on my pen are not great writers. The initial F-nib didn't work, and the replacement M-nib is only so-so. A plus is that you can buy individual steel nibs as a replacement in sizes F-M-B at a reasonable price (about 20 EUR). I must admit that I was really disappointed about the bad nib performance - fountain pens are first-and-foremost writing instruments, and as such should write well, out-of-the-box.
  • Price : about 195 EUR, including taxes. That's on the expensive side for a steel-nib, cartridge convertor pen.

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Conclusion

The Visconti Van Gogh Starry Night is a great-looking pen with a beautiful "swirly" finish. But it is marred by a not-so-nice-looking metal grip section, and - in my case - sub-par nibs. The pen aged well, and still looks good as new today.


The big question is: would I buy this pen again? To this, my answer is: NO. In hindsight, the metal grip section is not my thing. And I was really disappointed by the lack of quality control for the nib - it really sucks when you get a shiny new pen, admire its lines, then ink it up, put the nib on the paper and then... it refuses to write. Bummer!


Edited by namrehsnoom
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  • jthole

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Thanks for the review. I have the Starry Night, and it is a beautiful pen. I have to agree that Visconti's quality control on their nibs is poor. My Starry Night has a fine nib and I sent it to a nib meister to turn it into a fine stub and fix the flow. I also have two Rembrandts with the same problem. One of those also went to a nib meister to fix the flow. Beautiful pens, and I love the magnetic cap, but nibs seem to be questionable.

Favorite pen/ink pairings: Edison Brockton w/EF 14K gold nib and Noodler's 54th Massachusetts; Visconti Pinanfarina w/EF chromium conical nib and Noodler's El Lawrence; Sheaffer Legacy w/18k extra fine inlaid nib and Noodler's Black; Sheaffer PFM III fine w/14k inlaid nib and Noodler's Black; Lamy 2000 EF with Noodler's 54th Massachusetts; Franklin Christoph 65 Stablis w/steel Masuyama fine cursive italic and DeAtramentis Document Blue; Pilot Decimo w/18k fine nib and Pilot Blue Black; Franklin Christoph 45 w/steel Masuyama fine cursive italic and Noodler's Zhivago; Edison Brockton EF and Noodler's El Lawrence; TWSBI ECO EF with Noodler's Bad Green Gator.

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couldn't agree more with the review above. I ended up getting dream touch nibs for my pair of van goghs one of which is the starry night.

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Thanks, your pit stop reviews are nice reads! I've got a van Gogh 'Pollard Willows' myself, which was my first rather expensive "fountain pen impulse buy", based on the incredibly nice design of the pen. When I bought it, I tried every F-nibbed van Gogh that the store had in stock and chose the one that suited me best. It's actually one of the better steel nibs that I own and I find it quite enjoyable (although my recent discovery of Leonardo pens and their steel nibs has been a game changer). Anyway, at home the pen turned out to be bone dry when a cartridge was popped in, while it wrote like a dream when dipped into a bottle. This phenomenon taught me a lot about fountain pens in general. I have an inquisitive mind and I wanted to understand why this pen didn't write from a cartridge (and even worse with a converter). So my van Gogh really kicked off my learning curve, which gradually led to things like this.

 

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As an EDC writer, I don't use my van Gogh that much because the metal section is too slippery for me. But the pen writes very well indeed and I can look at it all day, it's so pretty.

Edited by TheDutchGuy
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Good review, slippery metal sections are a turn off for me when purchasing pens.

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My Van Gogh is the only Visconti I have that has consistently given me trouble. Nib/feed/ ink flow, whichever or some combination. Just does not start easily and keep going. I know I could send it to a nibmeister, but I just haven't been inclined to throw good money after bad. If I could replace the nib and feed with same off of a Divina or Homo Sapiens, I might be okay with it. Love the looks, but the performance is a disappointment.

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My Van Gogh is the only Visconti I have that has consistently given me trouble. Nib/feed/ ink flow, whichever or some combination. Just does not start easily and keep going. I know I could send it to a nibmeister, but I just haven't been inclined to throw good money after bad.

My van gogh is my only Visconti and nib quality was awful. It will remain my only Visconti.

Is it really the nib, i.e. something wrong with the actual steel...? Tines out of alignment, too rough, too smooth, baby's bottom, slit too much pressed together, slit too wide...? I'm asking this because personally my observation is that ink flow from the cartridge or (especially) the converter to the feed is the cause of the often-observed dryness issues with these pens. That's not OK and I'm not making excuses for Visconti here, but in fairness I have experienced similar issues with many new pens from several brands. Surface tension issues with the converters are a common cause, but it has a lot to do with how the feed of a new pen responds to the ink you use. Again, it's not OK, but if the actual nib is fine then it usually is solvable without reverting to a nibmeister.

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Good to see a pen review, based on many months of use. Thank you. :thumbup:

 

Have always liked the looks of the Starry Night...all but for that metal section.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for the review. I have two of these, and I am considering a third. However, just as my other two, I already know that I must have the nib adjusted / corrected when I receive it.

 

Given that my Viscontis already give me writing pleasure for a couple of years, and are visually stunning pens, that is a small price to pay. But of course, the nibs should be better out of the box for this price.

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Thanks for the wonderful review and the clear pictures!

 

I’m writing one of my own for this exact same colour of the Van Gogh. Very happy to read that I’m not the only one who feels the steel F nib is just too dry and lacks souplesse. I have a broad nib for it on order along with a travelling inkwell. Apparently the latter is out of stock at the factory meaning that after waiting 5 weeks for delivery I’ve heard today it’ll be another two to three before they can ship more

 

Anyway, when it finally arrives we’ll see if the broad is any better than the F and M nibs.

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Thanks for the review! I have a Van Gogh Sunflowers edition, with Broad steel nib. It writes more like M and initially was on the dry side. I ran micro mesh between the tines a few times and now its a wetter nib, which I prefer. Metal section I also dislike and fear that over time it would rust. So many vintage pens are still a beauty to look at, partially because hardly there is any with metal section.

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Used to come across a Visconti like this too the problems:

 

1. Ink dries up in pen. Poor cap.

2. Problematic nib

3. Slippery metallic grip.

 

Very disappointed by Visconti, especially at this price point.

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I bought mine second hand a few years ago and the nib is just fine (actually an M)

I love the material, the metal section does not bother me at all, and the magnetic cap is addictive (I keep fiddling about with it!)

I like the clip, it fits my jacket pockets, while many other pens don't.

I bought another more recently (Sunflowers) and the nib needed minor adjustment (tines widening)

fpn_1548886919__p1160740-3_visconti_star

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For the record, last weekend I bought another Van Gogh, with the new nib design (M). Perfect writer out of the box, very different from my older ones, which required major tweaking to become good writers.

 

Yes, the new nib looks much plainer than the old design, but if my specimen is the rule, then the performance has improved a lot.

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Visconti pens are indeed beautiful to look at. They are just so inconsistent, some perfect out of box, others have to be adjusted or sent back. As cross border purchases are always complicated by delivery, insurance, customs problems, I have dared to buy another Visconti. It wouldn't be a problem if I live near a brick and mortar shop with a good reputation and sensible prices.

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My first Visconti was a used Michelangelo (pretty much the boring man's Van Gogh). I am not sure if the Michelangelo was tweaked at all or built using the exact same tools and specs as the Van Gogh, but the one I got has been great. No nib problems... one of the smoothest nibs I own in fact, flow is on the wet side of perfect for me, and even after sitting the weekend it had no trouble starting.

 

Still, it's unsettling that I feel "lucky" to have gotten a working pen, or that I have "dodged a bullet." I was willing to take a chance on this pen at $150, however, I had a good deal of trust in the vendor too.

 

The slippery section is a bit of an issue -- my plan is to try a clear resin/polymer coat on it, which I have been experimenting with to some success. It is a semi-permanent brush-on product that makes metal feel like resin once it's coated... very nice. If the product won't stick long-term I would consider brushing the section or having someone engrave it with lines to add grip.

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