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Fountain Pen Frustration


Sui-Generis
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So, I have been into this writing & fountain pen thing now for perhaps 4-6 months, give or take a foot.

 

And whilst I have had some nice experiences the majority have been, well, irksome to say the least.

 

Most of my fountain pens are 'cheap' Chinese affairs, granted, but the few 'expensive' ones I own have usually come with their own issues very similar to the lesser priced ones.

 

I'm talking about hard starts, skipping, iffy scratchy nibs, nib sizes being somewhat 'wrong' (fine's writing like mediums, mediums writing like broads etc) and unfortunately I just don't have the knowledge to fix such issues myself.

 

Is there a price point where all this frustration, not to mention completely wasted money, stops? Or at least becomes less frequent?

 

I was recently looking at the Visconti Homo Sapiens thinking that a £600+ pen just HAD to be perfect right out of the box, only to be met with a deluge of reviews saying the exact opposite.

 

As a baseline, my 'expensive' pens...pen, is a Karas Kustoms K with a god-awful Bock No5 nib.

 

I also have a Parker sterling Ciselé that too was a disaster (eBay, came with a fine nib that was like writing with a poorly sharpened pencil, Parker themselves wanting £150 to replace the nib, managed to source a NoS medium on eBay for half that...but still an extra costing).

 

The only pen I have nothing but praise to sing about is my NoS Sheaffer 834 which writes just a beautiful, fine line every time, even after being sat unused for weeks.

 

My frustration is compounded by the fact that I will be losing my job at the end of next month (funding coming to an end) so every penny counts, I simply cannot afford to buy a pen then have to buy a new nib every time.

 

Ok, I'm done moaning.

Arguing with people on the Internet is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how good you are at chess, the pigeon will just knock the pieces over, s**t on the board and strut around like it's victorious.

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Yuck. Sounds like you've had a bad run of bad pens. I guess my first question would be what are, or were, you hoping to get out of the writing experience?

 

If it's a good writing experience, you don't have to spend a lot. The pilot metropolitan has good nibs, I've never had an issue with the two I have. The Lamy Safari is also a low priced pen, if you're ok with its unique grip, is also a nice writer. First time I used one I marveled at how nice and smooth it wrote.

 

Having said that, there's nothing wrong with taking a break for a bit. Sounds like you have a lot going on in your life and you don't need additional frustrations adding to it.

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I generally feel that you don't need to keep buying fountain pens to keep enjoying them.

 

My fountain pen history: I got my first at 7 years old. I always used them but never really saw anything special about them. It was just another writing instrument.

 

What opened up fountain pens as a hobby was learning how to modify them. This came unintentionally through dropping a pen of mine nib down on the floor. I straightened it out myself, but I became fascinated about the working of such instruments. I began reading blogs like https://fountainpendesign.wordpress.com/ and also Richard Binder's pages.

 

I began experimenting with my cheap pens, learning how to align tines, smooth nibs, solve airflow problems. I realised that sometimes a fraction of a millimetre can make the difference between bliss and a bad pen. I also realised after a while my nib smoothing began to surpass that of my expensive pens. Thus nowadays I tend to buy good cheap pens and smooth out the imperfections myself.

 

What makes a pen good is the complex interaction between writing angle (and variance thereof), paper, ink, nib, feed and ink storage. In a way, every pen is perfect, but perfect for a certain combination of writing angle (and variance thereof), paper, ink, nib, feed and ink storage. Manufacturers tend to tune for what they presume will be average circumstances in which their pens will be used.

 

What makes a fountain pen different from any other pen in existence is the ability to tune the pen to your writing.

 

I always enjoy working out what ink and paper combination will work for each pen. For example, a lot of fountain pen ink has good flow and lubrication but will feather on cheap paper. Diamine registrars ink has very poor flow and almost no lubrication on good quality paper. The trick, I found was to use a very wet pen (Pelikano Junior) and cheap paper. The absorbency of the cheap paper pulls the ink out of the pen. So strangely I got a combination which will write any awful paper you throw at it and is totally waterproof.

 

Anyway these are my random thoughts. I hope you find them helpful.

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...Is there a price point where all this frustration, not to mention completely wasted money, stops? Or at least becomes less frequent?...

 

I'm going to say no, there isn't. Not as such. In fact, paying more for a pen and then still being disappointed will just amplify the frustration. And there are plenty of examples of people being dissatisfied with expensive, even luxury, pens.

 

Although I could afford a $600 pen, or even more, I will probably never buy one at that price level. I'm just not that focussed on appearance, and in that range, even if the pen writes like a dream, then much of what you're paying for is appearance and more expensive materials. The most I've paid for a pen is a bit over $200, and my favorite ones for writing are in a range from about $80 to $150.

 

I could suggest pens that have worked well for me in that range. Pilot Custom Heritage 91 and 92, Namiki Falcon, Lamy 2000, Platinum 3776, and others. But I did have to tweak the CH 92 to write a bit wetter, and the 3776 came with slightly mis-aligned tines. Well within my capability to fix, and I had gotten it at a discount, but still.

 

If you are losing your job (and my sympathies for that), and if you have one fountain pen with which you're fully satisfied, it really might be time to take a break, read lots of reviews, and put off new pen purchases for a while. Maybe avoid more really cheap pens, but don't assume that the more you spend, the better the QC will be. The specific manufacturer makes a lot of difference.

 

As for differences in nib width, with F writing like M, or M like B, that's a common complaint. Again, the specific manufacturer will be a clue to what these actually mean in practice.

"So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."

 

- Benjamin Franklin

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Sorry to hear about your situation, all of it , for your Chinese fountain pens, you might wish to trek over to the Chinese Fountain Pen sub-forum section where people discuss that in detail an are likely able to offer up some advice ( provided you do give enough info regarding ) But sorry to tell you that no price is not a guarantee, there were and there are always pens that just do all fine but cost little, and as well pens that cost a lot and yet still give you all the troubles.

 

MY suggestion is that you take a look at the current stock you have and fire us on the forum with specific questions, a simple hack or a simple fix might already been found and it might be that's all you need , and tell us a it about how you write, say do you write often and with what ... etc

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My thing is vintage, which is a snake pit. That said, the pens made in the early 20th Century were made with a concern for function that I don’t believe exists today.

Were I in your situation (and as an animation professional, I frequently have been), I’d sell my unsatisfactory fancy pens and have a look at some of the restored vintage pens available from several reputable sellers (Peyton Street, Main Street, Greg Minuskin, Five Star, Nibs.com come to mind). It’s a very different and (to me, anyway) much more interesting writing experience.

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That's unfortunate. The hobby can be frustrating at times; it certainly was for me when I started. I avoid frustration now by being much more picky about pens (and by being resigned to the idea that the chance of a new pen being exactly what I had hoped for being lower than I would like, unfortunately).

 

My advice is to buy Japanese; seems to be much higher levels of quality control. I get the impression that they still see fountain pens as serious tools that are expected to work well, rather than novelties and status symbols that just need to look pretty. The Platinum Plaisir is affordable and a safe purchase.

 

Alternately if you want more old-fashioned Western style pens (ebonite, flex) for affordable prices then you might want to look to India. Fountain pens are still commonly used in India, so function is not an afterthought to them. I've had good experiences with FPR.

 

If you buy from a reputable seller then it might cost more but you should be able to return a pen if it is not satisfactory, so that might be worth the investment to you.

 

A lot of issues that fountain pens suffer from can be fixed by the end user; maybe forget about buying new pens for a while and just spend some time destroying your current underperforming collection by pulling nibs and feeds, realigning tines, and regrinding tips. Look up videos on cleaning, flushing, and smoothing fountain pens. Invest in micromesh, an earbulb, and a loupe. Buy some cheap spare Chinese nibs. Make it a more hands-on/DIY hobby.

 

You talked about a "price point" where issues go away. I think if you're willing to spend the money then it's less about the initial price of the pen and more about making sure to have a nibmeister give it a once-over. Some sellers are or have on-house nibmeisters that will check a pen and even modify it to your tastes if you discuss it with them before hand. FPNibs.com for example. Just make sure to discuss it with them before ordering, and don't be surprised if it's not free.

Edited by SoulSamurai
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>Is there a price point where all this frustration, not to mention completely wasted money, stops? Or at least becomes less frequent?

 

Honestly, it is all wasted money, but how do place a value on bliss: mind to body to pen, ink and paper?

 

My spouse is for the former and I the latter :lol: .

 

How much is that sense pleasure worth of mindful comfort to freely express? For me, it is a psychological home away from the sh*t of reality. I'm good with staying at the hostel and I don't need a mansion so I'm settling in a decent well appointed apartment.

 

Realistically I concur with others about checking QC / reviews of pen(s) in your target range. Never had a bad Pilot yet from the Kakuno to the Custom line. Lamy and Pelikan have also been good to me. Lately I've been hovering around interchangeability with the JOWO #6 nib standard which can be swapped in different pen bodies and re-ground in all forms of delight.

 

My current average across a wide spectra is $177 USD or £141 but that is individual as to mortgage, job, children, etc oh yeah and cup ramen :lticaptd:

 

Another consideration is repair/restoration which can do wonders that @stenolearner so eloquently noted.

 

I've been Ebay'd, too. My wonder and delightful surprise at scoring a "flex" BCHR Waterman 52 only to be meant with gastric unease weeks down the road by an overflowing vomiting feed almost wrote off vintage altogether. Literally, I bought an ink seismograph as any motion disturbance would be detected by proportional ink splatter.

 

Only by the care and craft of Ron Zorn at Main Street Pens did the Ebay curse twas lifted and now the pen is one of my favorite writers than moderns have yet close to touch.

 

Another factor is nostalgia/memory. There are no prices that operate uniformly here.

 

I love my less expensive Ebay workhorse: Wing Sung 601 faux/hommage Parker 51 at £16 but despite it's better maintenance cost/modern build to the original, I would not trade it for my nostalgic Parker 51 aeromatic purchased from my first pen show costing 4 times as much. Golly, these old vintage pens have so much and story in them left to tell, do I really need to pollute the planet with more plastic? 5000 Jinhao, Wing Sung, PenBBS in the latest sparky color acrylic or filler system du jour is not gonna do it

 

For me, a pen is more than a functional tool though my purchases have reflected otherwise. I factor in history, dealer/vendor, pleasant memory/moment in the transaction. While I won't pass up a 50% off sale, I tend to try to spread my pennies to those who are known to support the fountain pen community and smaller businesses/vendors.

 

Over time and money, I have learned that cheaper pens however better built and competent writers they may be, have opportunity costs that have distanced me from what I truly wanted (needed :lticaptd: ) in the first place.

I have many "the One" pens but like a hungry ghost still truly unsated (it's very close though)

 

@Sui-Generis that Sheaffer 834 is a definite lifetime winner :P white dot notwithstanding. I'd put that in my "one" pen category and be done. My better half loves hers and I'm sorely tempted at the great price from a trusted vendor

 

I've seen Murelli CP8 in person and had I not made prior purchases, the charm and persuasion of Andreas Lambrou would have overcome my rational defenses. The Sheaffer hits similar warm buttons.

 

It's grateful to see these gems in the wild and folks to care for vintage and put them out there for us to enjoy.

 

Enjoy!! :)

 

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obviously here is a person who is keen on writing, and not filling a mahogany cabinet with expensive models purchased for the sake of their sparkle, fashionable collectability or antiquity. Neither do I sense an inclination to tinker - which can be one way to cure some problems.

As most of us discover big money doesn't equate to satisfaction, especially when buying from the screen - and one way to cure this problem is to buy in person from whatever outlet you have access to - test the nib, even dry, and most problems will be short-circuited. I bet most of us here at one time or another have bought a dud from ebay.

Pens that I have used - albeit for dip-testing only - and for which there seems almost nothing to complain about are ………… P25 - P45 - P.Vector - these seem to be acclaimed universally as value for money pens that write out of the box, and none will break the bank.

 

Most of the Newhaven aerometric Duofolds made in the '50s and '60s are also very good value for money, and not expensive - vintage yes, but proven over many years to be reliable, though you will need bottled ink for these pens, whilst the Parker's are all cartridge jobs.

 

None of the above pens pretends to offer antique copperplate handwriting - their tipping is almost invariably without flex, so don't expect line variation,

but get a good one and you should be able to take a break from heartache for a while. Best of luck. :)

Edited by PaulS
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Sorry to hear about your troubles with pens, and more importantly I hope you get a job quickly. In my experience a little patience can go a long way (I had none). You can have a good experience with cheap reliable pens, for instance Lamy Safaris, Mujis, Pilot Metropolitans, decent paper (decent and inexpensive Oxford Optik might be available in the UK) and some nice ink.

 

I have kept away from Chinese pens because I value reliability, but more expensive pens work on the same principles as cheap ones, so throwing money at it won't solve the issues; in my experience thorough cleaning resolves most issues, but some inks interact with pens in unexpected ways.

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

 

B. Russell

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I would suggest you take a look at the One Pen One month thread.

 

Pens do have their foibles, but if you use one constantly for two weeks, a lot of the problems iron themselves out. Your hand becomes used to the pen, something magical happens to the ink flow - it just gets better and you do get a better writing experience.

 

But I agree with the sentiment that vintage pens can come with issues. Many have been in the back of a drawer for umpteen years, and the question is - why? Condition is everything, and trying before you buy at a pen show is more expensive.

 

On the thread so far, folk have tried out modern, vintage, cheap and very expensive pens - and by & large the experiences have been positive.

 

If there's a pen club .near you, maybe you could go along? You get the opportunity to dry different pens without having to buy them and folk will share strategies to repair pens and keep them writing.

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It's a shame you've had such a poor experience but at least you've come to the right place to receive lots of advice based on experience!

 

Whilst I am certainly one of those that appreciates a pen for it's aesthetic qualities, historical value and technical innovation, I also require that virtually all my pens should "write right", to steal a phrase from the renowned restorer Richard Binder.

 

Here's my twopence worth on how to ensure you are happy to write with your pens: communicate with the seller! If you know what you like (butter-smooth, a hint of tooth, semi-flex, hard as a nail etc) then make sure you buy from a seller with enough experience to be able to answer your questions properly and patiently. Provided they operate a returns policy you should have no difficulty returning a pen if it is not as described.

 

I am not selling any pens at the moment but when I do I always include a section on the pen's writing characteristics, as well as a fairly detailed writing sample that illustrates the style of line laid down as well as the smoothness of the nib and the flow of ink. I personally prefer a hint of tooth on my nibs as i enjoy the feedback and the sound it makes. Many users prefer butter-smooth. Some users love a very wet line (flex-lovers or broad-nib lovers mainly). Within the limits of my skill I can adjust both smoothness and ink flow according to a buyer's preference. Some sellers have considerable skill at this. You can always come here and browse the Repair forum for tips on DIY for this too.

 

There are some top sellers in the US, of course, but then you will also have to donate to HMRC for the privilege of using them. Best of luck in your quest for that lovely writer! A Parker 45 with almost any size nib is almost always a safe bet for an inexpensive and excellent writer with decent flow and good smoothness...

"Every job is good if you do your best and work hard.

A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have

nothing to do but smell."

Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

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One thing that has only been glossed over briefly: nib widths.

A lot of European brands will have nibs that write broader than you expect (my first Pelikan was from the 1990s -- and at the time my most expensive pen). It's a very juicy F nib. I partly wanted it for drawing -- only my favorite brown ink, Iroshizuku Yama-guri, was a bit too wet for the pen. OTOH, when I tried an ink I had pretty much given up on because of the dryness -- Noodler's Walnut -- the magic happened. The dry ink tamed the wet nib. And the wet nib coaxed flow out of the dry ink.

Unfortunately, there is no medium is medium is medium. Japanese pens tend to run narrower than European pens for what is supposedly the same width. Vintage pens also tend to run somewhat narrower than their modern counterparts -- even within the same brand. But even then, that's not a hard and fast rule. And even within the same model, there can be variations with what is supposedly the same nib width: one of my Noodler's Konrads is a lot drier writer than the other two; and I have a bunch of Parker Vectors, and even the ones with F nibs don't all write the same as the each other.

Additionally, some nibs (especially modern ones) have what's called baby's bottom -- I had that with a Pelikan M200 with a broad nib. But when I got an M400 (same size, but with 14K rather than a plated nib) that was a B? Perfect out of the box. People complain about the QC on Noodler's pens. Well, I have a bunch of them -- and the only one that wasn't good out of the box was one of the Charlie eyedroppers, which came free with a bottle of ink. But some vintage pens might also have worn down tipping.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

 

ETA: I'm not a great fan of the Platinum Plaisir I have. It's a very dry writing pen, so I have to be careful to put wet inks in it. Additionally, I have an older one where the nib "matched" the barrel color -- unfortunately it was a coating on the nib, and since I changed inks fairly often, I was flushing the pen a fair amount. As a result, the coating started to flake off. :( I'm now afraid of either contaminating ink, or clogging the nib slit or feed (or some combination thereof...).

Edited by inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Is there a price point where all this frustration, not to mention completely wasted money, stops? Or at least becomes less frequent?

I'm afraid not. Price is primarily a function of supply and (sometimes organic, sometimes manipulated) demand of a product in the market, not its quality as a whole and certainly not its quality in just one aspect (that the individual consumer may consider to be more important than any other) of the product, such as writing performance.

 

Consumers and prospective customers cannot reasonably expect to use as simple a criterion as a price threshold to either secure satisfaction, or assess the probability of achieving that satisfaction, from a product "out of the box", any more than a company can just throw (some minimum of) $X at its information technology investment by buying off-the-shelf software, and expect everything to work well and fulfil all its business requirements from Day One.

 

One way to make frustration less frequent is to sink hours (or weeks!) of effort into research and due diligence, possibly including the "onerous" exercise of finding an example unit of a pen model with which you can have some first-hand user experience — by borrowing one from a friend, attending local fountain pen user community get-togethers or pen shows, or visiting a retailer that will allow you to test certain pens and/or prospective purchases. (N.B. Whether you walk out without buying from those retailers after testing one or more pens on their premises, if their prices are higher than what you've seen online for the same products, is outside of the scope of my suggestion above.)

 

 

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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stick with brands you trust if you aren't comfortable tuning nibs. Also, some degree of quality control failure will be just part of the game when it comes to everything. Even some high end electronics come DOA out of the box. Good customer service can really help. I don't love TWSBI because when something goes wrong, it's like pulling teeth dealing with Phil Wang all but accusing you of being the problem, but Yafa's customer service is outrageously good, so I'm not as scared of buying a conklin or monteverde, despite their rather spotty quality control.

 

Also, buy from a good retailer, like Goulet, vanness, FPnibs or anderson pens to name a few. At your request, they will often remove and inspect/test a pen for you before shipping, and they take care of you post-sale too.

 

Generally speaking, avoid italian brands if you want perfect quality control. The italians make things "pretty". Not "well". Visconti probably the worst offender, Aurora the best.

 

German brands can be hit and miss. I personally think Lamy's nib QC is awful, their gold nibs being an exception. Faber Castell tends to be very good.

 

If you want a pen that is almost absolutely guaranteed to be perfect out of the box, stick with pilot and sailor. They take QC much more seriously than basically all other brands.

Edited by Honeybadgers

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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Frankly, if I wanted one that is guaranteed to write as soon as I get it, I'd buy it from one of the folks that charge more, but pull it out of the box, test it, tune it, clean it, then send it on to me.

 

Pilot, sailor, whatever.

 

Frankly, I've had good luck with Jinhao, and decent luck with Wing-Sung (One out of five bad out of the box - feed pulls out with no effort, and nib doesn't hold on the feed). All of my Parker Vectors worked fine out of the box.

 

All of my 'expensive' pens are vintage, so they need service :)

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I have had good luck with inexpensive $20.00 rarely praised Cross fountainpens. Regular work horse pens for me. I'm a lefty if it matters but they work for me.

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A very part of having such frustration must be the customer expectation vs the Mfr's expected norm ( market, customer demographic etc ... ) there are cheap pens that simply just work and write well, say Platinum Preppy , and then there are cheap pens that pretty much demand a run in and better a tuning when NIB , yes I am talking about many Chinese fountain pen and also that of many Italian . the former out of the very market its in ( and all the cost cutting ) and the latter just Mfr's part of less than sterling delivery.

 

Equally this is the same for not cheap but not expensive pens and same even for top dollar and expensive pens ; I can lament about so many time when I got a new Pelikan Fine that wrote more like B and creep at every stop of line. My Montblanc 114 outperform on every writing parameter than my ( same company, same series ) MB 149 .. so really one just need to get over this price equate quality menta

 

facing prospect of living without a job is bad enough and we do not need yet another small things to get into the way , my advice is try to slow down, compose and reflect ... instead of thinking about buying another pen, why not tell us about the exact issues on hand with specific pens , and let's put this hobby up a notch by tuning, and bettering your current pen stock. I know many on this forum would had no reserve to help ; my decades of using fountain pen had taught me , a little bit of handon can go a long way

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How do you hold your fountain pen???? Before or after the big index knuckle?

Ball points before, fountain pens after.

 

If one reads enough some prefer the more nailish JoWo nibs............of course my Bock nibs are vintage. How ever if it is aligned it was good enough for Twsbi, until they went more nailish with JoWo...............Many major companies use Bock nibs with their company mark on them.

Bock does have different levels of quality, depending on what you want to pay for them.

 

Do look up how to align your nibs.............it is SOP.....the mailing packages are not mail proof, so many nibs get knocked out of alignment.

If you buy in a brick and mortar you don't have that problem.

It is cheaper to buy on line and have problems.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

RIP...200's once great nib, now a double ball.:crybaby::wallbash:

 

The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.

 

 

 

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Only way to avoid most of these problems is to actually try the pen before buying..

I think the Japanese are good with that... If you are asking for price point, Probably Nakaya offers the highest level of customization for the Nibs, and you can get it tuned to what you want.

 

But seriously dude, not when you are in between incomes. Experienced that before, and every penny hurts when you don't know when the next paycheck is coming

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