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Fine Writing Bronze Age Ef (Expanding Long-Term Review)


TheDutchGuy
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Context Fine Writing is a Taiwanese company, making mostly high-end pens. Their more affordable pens tend to have striking designs and consist of a series of time-limited models. What's in stores now will not be there forever and what Fine Writing might cook up next is unknown until they release it. There are two earlier Fine Writing reviews here on FPN, as far as I could determine: one for the Bronze Age and one for the Golden Armour. When I first saw photos of the Bronze Age, I knew I had to have one, even though I'd vowed never to buy another pen with a generic Jowo or Bock nib (not that those nibs are inferior, just a matter of personal preference). In other words, this is the first pen that I've ever bought purely because of its design.

 

Packaging, pricing, nib options These pens can be bought in various online stores for prices ranging from €85 ro €99. The nib options are EF, F, M, B and 1.1 mm stub. Nib colours are chrome, gold or black. The pen is packaged in a brown cardboard box and comes with a small booklet, a converter and a pipette. There is no clip. While some may wish for a more lavish box, personally I am happy with the cardboard box. Lavish boxes cost money and I'd rather spend my money on the pen itself. Also, for those who discard boxes, the cardboard can be recycled and is free of plastic and metal. The pen is C/C but can also be eye-droppered, hence the pipette. In eye-dropper mode, the pen holds a HUGE amount of ink, even more than the Opus 88 Demonstrator (which is also an eye-dropper). The converter seems to be identical to the ones that Kaweco uses and appears to be a generic design.

 

fpn_1584801454__img_20200321_133606_resi

 

Design The design of this pen is striking and I love it, though of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The engraved brass cap and filial and the brass section look really nice and the clear acrylic (I assume it is acrylic) barrel make for a unique appearance. The nib is a Jowo #6 engraved with the Fine Writing feather logo. You can unscrew the collar that contains the nib and feed from the pen, which is both easy to do and convenient. I chose an EF. Here are some photos of the various parts of this pen:

 

fpn_1584801553__img_20200321_134338_resifpn_1584801813__img_20200321_134501_resifpn_1584801859__img_20200321_134848_resi

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Dimensions and ergonomy In terms of size, the pen is larger than I'd expected it to be. It's halfway between an Pelikan M800 and an Opus 88 Demonstrator. Below is a picture that compares the Bronze Age to these two pens and to some other pens: a Parker Vacumatic Jr, a Torca, an Onoto #5601, the M800, the Bronze Age, the Opus 88 Demonstrator, an Esterbrook SJ and three Boston pens. Despite its size and appreciable weight, the pen fits my hand very well indeed. To my surprise, it is very comfortable to hold and I can use it for longer periods of time without fatigue. I don't have to search for the right way to hold it. For me, that is quite rare. Only a few of my pens offer me such ease and comfort, though of course this is very personal and subjective.

 

fpn_1584802005__img_20200321_150316_resi

 

The nib and how it writes Because I prefer narrow lines and an uncluttered, open, clean appearance of text, I chose an EF. That is somewhat of a risk with generic nibs from brands like Jowo and Bock. I've seen many such EF's with asymmetric nib cuts, misaligned tines and other maladies. A good EF, which writes a crisp, narrow line with enough smoothness to be pleasant and comfortable, but also with enough tactile response for good control, that's not easy to do. The F nib on my Opus 88 Demonstrator is also a #6 Jowo and I lucked out with that one - it's a really good steel nib that gives me pleasure every time I use it.

 

So, how well does the EF of the Bronze Age hold up...? Well, pros and cons, really. Proper flow of ink right out of the box, not too dry, not too wet. But it will become a lot wetter once more ink goes out of the barrel and more air comes in (if you don't want that, use a cartridge or a converter). Only a few words of writing were enough to alert me that the tines were not completely aligned. Visual inspection quickly confirmed what my hand had already told me: they were slightly but noticeably misaligned. Something else that I immediately noticed was a certain degree of 'character' to the writing, a very subtle difference in line width between downstrokes, sidestrokes and diagonal strokes. While I adore such an appearance of the written text, in an EF nib it is usually a sign of an asymmetric nib cut and indeed my Bronze Age has such an asymmetric cut (though I have seen much worse). Basically this means that the slit is not in the middle, so one tine is larger than the other. Sometimes the smaller of the two tines is slightly rotated so that the slit is not of equal width from top to bottom. As I mentioned, this is not uncommon and I have seen it on steel nibs from Kaweco, Leonardo (both Bock), Bock itself and Jowo. If you're lucky, the asymmetric cut will add character to your writing without feeling rough, without drag and without flow issues. In this sense I've been lucky several times, but initially the Bronze Age was sub-par. The nib offered good control, had good flow but it just did not feel right. On Rhodia, there was noticeable drag and on all papers that I tested on, some styles of writing just had too much unpleasant feedback, whereas other styles felt smooth. I had to search for a pleasurable writing experience and I don't want to do that - I want the pen to please me, instead of me finding a way to please the pen.

 

Anyway, it took me half a minute to align the tines and another minute to find and remove the minuscule burr that caused the unpleasant feedback. In terms of control, tidiness, character and comfort of writing, the pen immediately became a pleasure to use in every style of writing that I know. Of course, this is a rigid nib and you should not try to flex it in any way.

 

Here are some writing samples on Rhodia, Oxford and Tomoe and a comparison with some other well-known pens:

 

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^--Oxford 90 g/m^2, comparison with Sailor 1911 Standard (M) in top row

 

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^---Tomoe

 

fpn_1584804200__img_20200321_152004_resi

^--Rhodia

 

fpn_1584804265__img_20200321_145201_resi

^--Comparison of various other well-known pens

 

Verdict A pen is meant for writing, and the writing is done with the nib, so the business end of a pen has to be really good and really pleasurable. That steel Jowo #6 is the least expensive but most important part of this pen. It required a few interventions on my part to make it do what it is supposed to do, but to be fair many pens using nibs like this require some tuning. Once that was done, wow. The design, execution, comfort, size, ink volume (4 mL!!)... just wow. I can see myself putting in a gold nib at some point in the future, but I did 90 minutes of non-stop writing with the pen and every minute was rewarding, relaxing and enjoyable. The luxury of being able to choose a cartridge, a converter or to eye-dropper it is quite nice.

 

For what this thing costs, you get one helluva pen. I can see myself becoming very attached to this pen very fast.

 

fpn_1584804671__img_20200321_145520_resi

 

Edit: added additional info on nib removal.

Edited by TheDutchGuy
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4ml of ink, wow indeed. I can see this being the perfect pen for people who want to write and write and not refill. What's the gold color parts material like? Some type of tactile plastic or a harder material?

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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What's the gold color parts material like? Some type of tactile plastic or a harder material?

 

Solid brass.

Edited by TheDutchGuy
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Oh I should have looked at pen specs. Neat. Must be a pretty hefty pen! Should develop nice patina over time.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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Must be a pretty hefty pen!

 

 

The cap is weighty. Take the cap off, and the pen is very well balanced and doesn’t feel weighty at all. Judged by hand, the weight (without cap) is very close to a Visconti HS Lava.

 

Should develop nice patina over time.

 

No doubt the brass will develop patina, the question is how much, where and will it look nice or will it look like a failed chemistry experiment? We’ll see.

 

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I am kind of annoyed that it's brass but they call it the bronze age.

 

If it was bronze, I honestly might have bought it. Also needs a cap too.

 

I looooove bronze, particularly marine phosphorous bronze. I'm currently trying to convince Will at tactile turn to make me a custom bronze delike alpha with metal threads.

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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I looooove bronze, particularly marine phosphorous bronze. I'm currently trying to convince Will at tactile turn to make me a custom bronze delike alpha with metal threads.

 

Be aware that TactileTurn uses aluminium bronze, which is quite different from the copper-tin alloy that most people associate with bronze.

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Update. I’ve spent a lot of time with this pen, partly because at the moment I happen to have time, partly because the pen makes me want to pick it up and use it. It is a pen that gives joy. Some observations thus far:

 

-I unscrewed the nib/feed/collar assembly and replaced with another steel #6 F nib that I did a re-grind on to somewhere halfway between EF and F (depending on pressure), with a little bit of bounce, a little bit of line variation and UEF reverse writing. The combination of this nib and how well the pen fits my hand just makes me want to write and write and write. And I do. In terms of ink, I figured that a brass pen named ‘bronze age’ might benefit from an ink called ‘ancient copper’, so that’s what’s in it. The very pleasing shading is sadly not seen in the image below.

 

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-A Jowo 14k soft EF is expected next week, so I have the steel nib for less controlled circumstances and the soft gold for home and office.

 

-The appearance of the pen elicits strong responses from others, with men usually regarding it as ‘cheap looking’ and ‘gaudy’, whereas women tend to appreciate the design. Many find the pen to be too heavy for their tastes.

 

-The lack of a clip makes this pen hard to use as an EDC. It will fall out of shirt pockets when you bend forward and it will be pushed upwards & outwards of trouser pockets when you sit down. I’d like to have this pen always with me, but I guess it is a pen-pouch kind of pen.

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Perhaps you could add a custom clip to it? Ive seen bracket type clips offered for pens, just need to find the right bracket diameter and appearance.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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Perhaps you could add a custom clip to it? Ive seen bracket type clips offered for pens, just need to find the right bracket diameter and appearance.

 

 

That would really change the aesthetic of the pen and it would have to be a brass clip (it’s usually not a good idea to put two different kinds of metal into continuous contact with each other). From a purely practical point of view I miss a clip, but the pen is beautiful as it is.

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Be aware that TactileTurn uses aluminium bronze, which is quite different from the copper-tin alloy that most people associate with bronze.

 

Well aware. I've been talking to Will about getting his hands on some marine grade phosphor bronze.

 

Also talking with him to (hopefully) develop a clutch type 2mm lead holder.

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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One week update. Haven’t used any other pen until yesterday (when a few freshly restored vintage pens arrived after a 3-month turnaround time). The size and shape of the Bronze Age are just perfect for my hand; I got lucky with that. The old #6 steel nib that I had lying around and did a re-grind on works really well with this particular pen and ticks all my boxes except one (softness). It’s wet enough to be comfortable in any writing style, yet dry enough to facilitate interesting shading and quick drying times. It’s really smooth yet with enough tactile feedback to give me total control over my writing. Line width is halfway between Western F and Western EF, i.e. narrow enough to make a page of text appear uncluttered yet wide enough to allow up-tempo writing without any loss of tidiness. This balance was the purpose of the re-grind and thankfully it turned out exactly as I’d hoped it would.

 

I use this pen mostly in eyedropper mode, but I did try the converter once. Some standard international converters won’t fit, such as the Faber-Castell. Others do fit, and they fit snugly. They will never fall out and the barrel is long enough to be able to handle the length of any converter. The appearance of a converter inside the translucent barrel is appealing and it is a convenient option for inks that may be harder to clean out. When eye-droppered, the pen doesn’t burp and no ink even reaches the rubber O-ring. The 4 mL ink reserve is whopping and seeing the ink slosh around inside the pen is a delight, especially in the wonderful spring sunlight.

 

It’s a bit hard to judge this pen including its stock nib, which is a standard steel Jowo #6. Some of those are great, some are duds. Mine was an EF (which is not to everybody’s tastes to begin with) and it was a dud, which is why I changed it for a custom ground nib. I view this pen as a really, really great platform for any nib your heart desires.

 

PS speaking of any nib the heart desires... wanting the best of the best, on Friday an expensive, soft, semi-flex gold nib arrived that I’d ordered for this pen. It looked amazing...

 

fpn_1585496581__394826d0-ecd1-422f-a275-

 

...but it has flaws and will be returned. First, serious BB makes the nib unusable. Second, as soon as I put this nib in a pen the feed becomes completely saturated with ink between the fins. I went through half a barrel of ink (i.e. 2 mL) writing only 2.5 pages A5. Drying took forever. Third, when writing this nib feels like a Western EF but it writes like a Western F. Bummer. Oh, well.

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Some of the modern nibs that curve farther away from the feed as they flex--as opposed to flexing closer to the tipping--can be very gushy with ink. The location of those flex-assisting cut-outs is above the breather hole, well on the feed, and as the nib flexes, the separation between the nib and the feed grows large. I think vintage nibs do better in this respect with truly flexible nibs that bend lower down and stay closer to the feed around the breather hole area. Modern flex nibs are more difficult to control with ink flow and have poor snap back. I won't generalize this to all modern nibs, but that's the sense I got from personal experience and reading comments of others.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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Maybe it's the paper and not the nib?

 

The nib was tested on different kinds of paper, of course, including Tomoe, Rhodia, Oxford. If a pen doesn’t write well on paper like that, then it is the pen.

 

 

 

Some of the modern nibs that curve farther away from the feed as they flex--as opposed to flexing closer to the tipping--can be very gushy with ink. The location of those flex-assisting cut-outs is above the breather hole, well on the feed, and as the nib flexes, the separation between the nib and the feed grows large. I think vintage nibs do better in this respect with truly flexible nibs that bend lower down and stay closer to the feed around the breather hole area. Modern flex nibs are more difficult to control with ink flow and have poor snap back.

 

The nib I ordered was a soft nib, not a flex nib. Not even semi-flex. Just softness, so the motion of the tines compared to the feed was limited. The cutouts are mostly cosmetic.

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Non sequitur:

 

Every time I read the thread title I visualize some sort of cast stylus for imprinting cuneiform into damp clay tablets.

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  • 2 weeks later...

fpn_1586440104__865a5a9e-c33b-4cd4-85a2-

 

Mission accomplished. A new #6 14k Jowo EF arrived to replace the first one, which was plagued by baby’s bottom and wrote a line closer to M than to EF. Thankfully, the replacement is everything I’d hoped for. It offers a rare combination of qualities: exquisite softness (no flex), a very thin line (halfway between my Sailor PGS F and Justus 95 F), crispness, perfect control over my writing which allows me to write tidily _and_ briskly and a nice, precise, slightly toothy feel not dissimilar to a good Platinum nib.

 

Since this pen is a great platform for #6 nib swaps, two other nibs are ready to be popped in. The first is a steel #6 Kaweco F that I narrowed to a Western EF. I wanted the ultimate heavy-duty travel nib for use on trains, buses, etc and it needed to be as thin, crisp and smooth as possible while still offering really good control. A writing sample can be seen higher up in this thread. The second is the original #6 Fine Writing EF that came with the pen. I didn’t like that nib at all, it was crude and unpleasant, so I did a re-grind towards a narrow stub.

 

fpn_1586440945__ea5bfe91-3846-4484-b089-

 

Its sidestrokes are Japanese F, its downstrokes are Western M. It took me a long time to make it (I have difficulties when grinding stubs) and I’m very happy how it turned out. It writes very well indeed.

 

As a bonus, I can also use these three nibs in my Opus 88 Demonstrator.

 

So, what I’ve got on my hands is the closest thing to my ‘grail’ pen thus far, hands-down. The dimensions and weight of the Bronze Age fit my hand perfectly. Its three nibs are great and do exactly what I want them to do. The ink choices (C/C + eye-dropper) are super-convenient. The build quality is rock-solid.

 

Total cost around €240. For what I’ve got, that’s a steal.

 

Contenders? In terms of new pens that you can buy in a store today, the only thing that comes close is my Pilot Justus 95 F, which is a really great pen but a black cigar and doesn’t have the advantage of 4 mL eye-droppering that the Bronze Age offers.

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  • 1 month later...

Two-month update. My views haven’t changed one bit. If the house burned down, this is one of the pens I’d save.

 

I’m having some hand issues at the moment and this pen (once uncapped) is just so comfortable to hold... The width and shape of the section are perfect. The option of using cartridge, converter or eyedropper is very practical. Right now I’m using a really saturated ink and for that I’m using the converter, to avoid staining the barrel.

 

This pen is so much more than just looks and so much more than just a platform for nib changes; it’s very well-designed and thought-out and continues to impress me every time I pick it up.

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