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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pen Tests...favorite tools

Many of us are on a never-ending hunt for the Perfect Drawing Tool...and for some of us that means a fountain pen, with it's ready supply of ink.

A lot of us use a Lamy Safari or Vista (which is clear but the same pen!)--with the charcoal nib rather than the steel one, they're smooth and dependable.  (If you want to replace the nib, it's EASY, and you can get replacement nibs from several sources, including JetPens Here's one of the many tutorials for replacing the nib.)

This one's a favorite of mine, a Waterman Phileas--it's dependable and sturdy, and almost never skips--when it does, it's usually the paper's fault, not the pen's!  I've gotten these for a reasonable amount on eBay, and one was a STEAL, complete with a converter.  They also come in cobalt blue, red marble, and other colors...

NICE pen.  Interestingly, the Lexington Gray ink looks almost black with the Phileas, much grayer with the Lamy--a difference in how they deliver the ink or how the nib is designed, I believe.

Here, I've tested a variety of nibs--click on the image if you want to see them better!    I've tested out the Lamy Joy nib, too, which you can also find at JetPens--if you already have a Lamy, this may be the way to go, just replace the nib.  New Joy pens can be found for a reasonable amount, though--try Googling!

Our friends and blog correspondents Liz Steel (Interview # 2 on this blog) Alissa Duke (Interview #7) have both had good success with the Joy nib, thank you for the recommendations!

I have a lovely, flexible antique waterman pen which unfortunately likes to leak and clog...you can see that the Joy nib somewhat approximates the thick and thin lines though with a bit more if a mechanical effect.  (Now if I could just get hold of one of Noodler's new Flex pens correspondent Nina Johansson--our Interview # 10!-- mentioned on her blog--but they're out of stock till mid-May.)

Finally, you can see a quick sketch done with the Joy nib, Noodler's Lexington Gray ink, and watercolor washes...FUN.

Let us know what YOUR favorite pen is...


  1. I am a pen junkie. I find it hard to resist a new tool. You have mentioned a couple pens I would love to try...this can get expensive...oh what fun I'll have.

  2. It certainly can! I enjoy watching some of the antique pen auctions, but good heavens! $380 for a PEN??? I'd be afraid to TOUCH it.

  3. great post- just for clarification Alissa and i use standard the safari EF nib in the joy pen body. But having said that I am going to try to sketch with the 1.1 nib in the near future as I picked another one up at a borders cleanrance for 50% off!

  4. Awesome research, thank you. I am dying for Murex MYU 701, nib comes from body, but it is unaffordable. I've got Namiki Falcon, amazing pen, flexible, smooth. And very cheap and versatile calligraphy pen Hero M86.

  5. Aha! I tried Lexington Gray in my pen and was disappointed to find that it is very black. Now I know it's the pen's fault and I will have to branch out and - gasp- buy ANOTHER!!! I can always count on you for a great excuse! Thanks!

  6. Liz, how funny! Why do you use the Joy body? Well, glad I tried the 1.1 nib, anyway, it's fun, and I like calligraphy so it's good for that too of course! I hope you like it, as you can see it gives an interesting thick and thin effect.

    And Jeanette, yep, it made a big difference which pen I was using! Weird...

    I haven't seen a Murex, Nik, and probably a good thing! I do have a Namiki, but I'm intimidated to take it out anywhere...thought I'd lost it once and about had a heart attack. :-D Will have to search out a Hero!

  7. Ha ha, Cathy, same with me. I rarely take Namiki with me, worried to live my bag anywhere. But I am paranoid about all my pencils, because once eraser, my father got me from Czechoslovakia, was stollen from classroom, while I was on break. Plus I draw with unique antique pencils.
    where to buy

  8. Hi Kate, I love the balance of the long tail of the Joy pen - it is also a more stylish looking pen. The older model(black with red highlights) is marginally lighter in weight than the current (black and sliver version). There is just a special bond between my hand and that pen (it has sketched all around the world with me!)

    BTW the phileas looks nice!!!

  9. You know you're just adding fuel to the fire, right?! LOL!!

    I'm so glad to hear your comments about the Lexy Gray because I didn't like it all after I tried it! Too dark. More of a faded black than gray. I'll have to give it another go in a different pen.

    I've also just received a very cool pen that I'm going to do a post on when I can fight my way to the surface long enough to get it done.

  10. Laure, looking forward to it! Does it FLEX??

    And yeah, I was quite surprised at the difference in those two pens with the same ink! But the Phileas has quite an ink-delivery system of baffles on the back of the nib, and the Lamy doesn't.

    Nik, a child once picked up one of my antique pens and repeatedly slammed it into my paints...ruined it, of course, and her parents didn't even apologize, let alone offer to pay. I wasn't assertive enough then to demand it, and felt like an idjet! Can we say ANGRY?? I've got a cool old pencil sharpener that I'd worry about, too...

    Liz, never thought about the balance issue! I had a long sketch pen that was longer like that too...unfortunately it just didn't work, period...

  11. Oh, oh. The lure to try these pens is strong. Thanks for all the info, Kate. I was too confused before to research. Now I'm armed :) Bad for wallet!

  12. Pam, I KNOW. Dangerous! I would definitely look for the charcoal nib for the Lamy, or if you've got one already, just replace the nib with a charcoal one...JetPens has 'em pretty cheap...

  13. No, Kate, the pen doesn't flex—it doesn't need to! More as soon as I can get it posted. If not tomorrow, first of next week!

  14. Can't wait! Oh, well, yes I guess I CAN, but... :-D

  15. As a fountain pen collector, I've found that many can be used for drawing, with the proper ink. And a simple one, with some flex, is the Sailor calligrapher. I believe it is under $10 and works with a converter.

    But even with so many pens I am eager to try out the Noodler flex, and have put myself on the waiting lists of several distributors. One less familiar to artists is

    Todd is a good source with competitive prices and very quick shipping.

  16. Thanks for the recommendations, Ontheroad! Yes, I use a lot of fountain pens for sketching, including calligraphy pens that offer interesting variety of lines. I've been playing with that Lamy Joy...

    The Sailor Calligraphy pen is $15.00 now, but still sounds like a bargain.

    And thanks, Speedmaster, glad to help...

  17. Platinum Carbon Art Fountain Pen Extra Fine Nib. I got one on ebay - great for sketching and waterproof ink.

  18. Oh, thanks, Deb, I'll watch for them! Is the nib flexible at all? That's what I really love...

  19. I've been using Rotring Sketching ArtPen (EF point) for years, and love the silky smooth flow. I have 6 of them, including the calligraphy nibs. The only problem is if you don't draw with them for a while and the ink dries up in the pen--then you must clean the whole nib by soaking it in hot water. I've always wanted to try the Lamy pens--anyone know how the Lamy and Rotring compare?

  20. Maria, isn't that funny? I never had ANY luck with my Rotrings. I think I've given them away, I have no idea where they are, I was just going to try another chance. So my experience in comparing the two is Lamy 1, Rotring 0!

  21. I second the Sailor! I recently bought a Fudu DE Mannen (40-degree angle tip) from the New York City branch of Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore. Here's the link to it on Jetpens:
    I bought a converter for it and use Noodler's Lexington Gray ink. Much easier to get decent "flex-like" line variation from this pen due to the bent nib than from the Lamy Safari, I find.

  22. Thanks, Suma, I have one on order. Yep, the Safari doesn't give the flex effect at all, it's the Joy calligraphy pen that does, a little.

  23. Hi Cathy, thanks for this review! I am so glad I found your blog, actually and I have already bought the platinum carbon pen and the preppy from your recommendations (on another post)! I would like to ask if the Lamy Joy 1.1 nib has a finer or thicker nib than the carbon pen? I find finer nibs easier to sketch with :) And if the Lamy Joy 1.1 nib is finer than the EF or F nib for the Lamy Safari?
    Sorry for all the questions :) I just discovered the joy of fountain pens! :D

    1. HI Evelin! Actually the Lamy Joy 1.1 is a broader, flat calligraphy nib, so not really fine except on the side stroke. The EF is the finest Lamy makes...I don't really find it fine ENOUGH, but it's nice...

    2. You can see a sketch I did with the 1.1 here: http://artistsjournalworkshop.blogspot.com/2011/05/quick-sketch-with-my-lamy-joy-pen.html


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