My Pelikan M805 Fountain Pen

You might say this Pelikan M805 comes directly from the executive collection, a description perhaps befitting its appearance. Although I wouldn’t necessarily disagree — for myself at least — that description is perhaps a little misleading when it comes to the true nature of the pen. On that score, I’d consider it a smooth, comfortable cruiser, rather than simply a boardroom status symbol. A pleasant long form writer more so than a one signature wonder.

The Pelikan M805: great 18k F nib on a great pen.

This black and rhodium M805 (18k fine nib) was kindly and very generously passed on to me by a fellow enthusiast downsizing his collection. It is a pen quite frequently inked and often called upon for writing duties, ending page six as comfortably in the hand as it commenced page one.

Look and Feel

As you can see in the accompanying images, the outward appearance of this pen can be described as standard executive-looking black. I do own a number of black pens, and of those, the rhodium trimmed are my favourites. It is a colour scheme I never really tire of. Classic, timeless, and yes — perhaps boring for some. Be that as it may, however you might choose to describe that look yourself — I love it.

The members of the M800/805 series from Pelikan are sizeable pens (though a step down from the 1000’s), and setting off on this post also triggered a few thoughts on whether I have a preferred size in relation to my pens in general. That post morphed into something a little different, however as far as sizes are concerned, I would note the 805 — though at the upper limit — remains firmly in my preferred zone. For reference, my M600 is probably right in the centre, as is the Sailor 1911 Large.

Pelikan siblings (L to R): M400, M600, M805

I’ve found it interesting how my cap-posting preferences have changed over time, and I put it down to the fact some of my favourite writing pens are from the larger end of my collection, thus requiring the caps be posted on many of the smaller to retain a semblance of this new-found “balance” I’ve become accustomed to. Here of course I make reference within my collection, for there are certainly many larger and more weighty pens on the market which aren’t sitting in my drawer waiting for ink.

As you can imagine, I use this particular pen without posting the cap. Being a pen which prefers a medium to large hand, posting might of course suit a small few, however I’d expect those to be at the far right of the bell curve on that one. Overall it is a very well-balanced pen (when not posted), and the main difference for me compared with the M600 is the diameter at the point my index finger sits on the section. The 805 being that little bit larger here, separates my thumb and index finger just a little further then the 600, and as a result I find it not quite as comfortable as some of my pens with slightly narrower sections (again the 1911 Large comes to mind – though similar in diameter, probably suits a little better given the shape of its taper relative to the barrel).

As with all Pelikan pens, the finish is on point, and although the images do a far better job than my words, there are a couple of things which do come to mind when considering what I enjoy most about its appearance.

In addition to the black and rhodium combination I’ve mentioned already — I’d say the overall balance between the finial/clip ring, cap/branding ring, and those around the piston knob when the pen is capped. The typical Pelikan beak-shaped clip, and finial logo complement things nicely, and although there is a slight taper towards either end, the flat ends exhibited by Pelikan pens I find neat and definitive.

That nib again…

When uncapped, the 18k nib stands impressively, with engraved detailing, Pelikan logo, and nib designation lettering. The nib itself is a step up in size from the M600, commensurate with the overall size of the pen. A gentle taper at the section and unobtrusive cap threads round things out nicely.

Overall, a classically styled, yet sharp and well-appointed pen which looks out-of-place nowhere really — perhaps with the exception of a dusty work shed or rolling around loose in the bottom of a gym bag.

Specifications

Courtesy Appelboom

  • Pelikan Souverän M805 Fountain pen
  • Nib: Fine
  • Nib content: 18k Gold
  • Filling system: Piston
  • Closing System: Screw cap
  • Material: Resin
  • Colour: Black
  • Trim colour: Silver
  • Weight: 28 gram
  • Length closed: 142mm
  • Length barrel: 127mm
  • Length posted: 167mm
  • Diameter: 13mm

Depending on where you might pick one up, pricing is approximately AU$600.00 – $795.00 (RRP: AU$795.00) at the time of writing.

Writing performance

The 18k gold nib on the M805 is one of the larger nibs in my collection. I must admit on occasion, after writing with a smaller nib for any length of time, it does take a little time to adjust. Of course after a few lines it feels as comfortable as any from my pen drawer.

Though it carries the Fine designation, depending on paper type, the resulting line width approaches your Japanese Medium or even beyond. Of course that is nothing unexpected, and remains consistent with most other European nibs, and certainly those on my other Pelikans.

Despite the quality finish and stylish appearance, the not insignificant price point carries with it a certain expectation in terms of performance, and having always found Pelikan to deliver as promised — I’d have to say this time is no different.

A few words: Life Symphony Notebook; Bookbinders Snake Ink – Ground Rattler

As I’ve touched on already, though sizeable, the nib is well-balanced given the overall size of the pen. Depending on the size of your hand and preference (one of course influencing the other to a large extent), the large nib/full-sized pen may be a combination slightly outside your comfort level for lengthy writing. I’d say my hands are average, and as I’ve mentioned, it probably sits at the upper end of my “comfort range”.

The 18k gold nib is perhaps not as soft in the “give” side of things as some of my other pens, however I don’t consider that a negative as such. Although firm, it is an effortless glider with just the right footprint on the page to carry a dense, vibrant line — the magnitude of which will of course relate to the particular ink you have filled at the time.

Some of my other gold nibs (particularly the 14k fine and extra fine in my M600 and M400’s respectively; or say, the Sailor Sapporo 14k), tend to give a little more and “sit in” to the page, which I find just as comfortable really — again depending on the type of paper you are using.

Ultimately, the overall balance, size, and nib combine perfectly to produce the effortless feel this pen provides when I write with it.

Signing Off

Probably the most pertinent aspects about this pen are its size and performance. Yes, I find the build and design of high quality — and typical of the Pelikan pens I own — however what makes this any different to those other pens?

Were it larger either in diameter or length, the pen would most likely see less use, which is of course a matter of personal preference. Were I looking to buy another, the Pelikan 600 series probably would be the point I’d be considering — offering just a marginally better size fit, and of course saving a little money (depending on the particular model) to boot. As far as writing is concerned, this pen is simply a beauty.

Sometimes I feel it might be more systematic to have some sort of rating system for these posts, however most of them are approached with a couple of points in mind. Anything not discussed you can assume is relatively unimportant to me in the grand scheme of things (for example piston vs converter, or ink capacity to name a couple).

Generally each post can be summed up before I begin, by thinking what I might say if asked for a quick summary about the pen in question.

This one?

It’s probably one of the largest I’d comfortably use, however it’s a very high quality pen with a great nib, and is an absolute joy to write with.

Belonging — at any level

Yesterday, Dr Jonathon Deans wrote a fantastic post over at Pen Economics recounting the first year of the Fountain Pens Australia Facebook Group. While Facebook call it a group — it is indeed far more than that. It is a community, and a healthy, thriving one at that. With a hat tip to the power of internet good, bringing 730 members (at last count) together both online and in person, in a country this size is no mean feat.

With the first anniversary of FPA now upon us, I am reminded I myself have been a member of the group for a year now as well.

Although I was very happy to be joining the group when things kicked off (managing to get over begrudgingly signing up to Facebook to so), that is really all I can lay claim to. Jonathan on the east coast and Yagan Kiely in the west were — and continue to be — the driving forces behind initially getting things off the ground, and administering a successful online community throughout the past year. They rightly deserve the congratulatory messages now running in a thread on the group’s page.

I encourage you to read Jonathan’s post for a more detailed account of where things came from, and where they are today, along with some exciting new developments coming soon to FPA.

For me personally, the past year as a member of FPA has certainly been an enlightening one. Though I’ve been writing this blog for over three years now, as far as my online presence and social media engagement1 are concerned, a “reserved observer” is how I’d label myself if compelled to do so. I do not have the biggest personality, the largest or most expensive collection of pens, nor the most numerous or brightest inks — but Fountain Pens Australia does.

And here’s the thing — in the community that is FPA, none of that matters. Of course groups like these do not succeed without the larger than life personalities, the regular and frequent contributors, and those with a knack — and a will, for organising and administering such groups. Along with that, they also succeed because of members who may just follow along, adding a couple of comments or snippets of advice from their own experience when they believe it may be helpful.

So I say to the 730 members of FPA: To those who contribute each and every day — thank you. To those (like me) who occasionally join a conversation thread — thank you. To the admins Jonathan and Yagan, and other members of the group with the get up and go to organise bulk buys and meet ups — thank you (and what a fantastic thing it is you do).

It is each and every one of you that is the thread that binds the community together. A shared appreciation of fountain pens yes — but over and above that — the shared feeling of belonging to a respectful and encouraging (dare we say enabling) community. A community where every member truly belongs, and the value of this membership is not tied to the pen or ink collection you bring to the table, nor by the frequency of your posts or conversation threads.

We all belong — at any level of involvement we choose, and the collective force of good that is the group as a whole is something to celebrate.

Happy first birthday, Fountain Pens Australia.


  1. Yes, I did it – I used the word engagement. I’m sorry, marketing told me to. Either that or I could not think of a better word at the time/

Sailor 1911 Large Fountain Pen – Naginata Togi 21k MF Nib

FullSizeRender 4Whether or not you subscribe to the desert island pen mindset, if there was one — and only one pen to take and use from here to well… let’s say, eternity — the decision would most likely be either fairly straightforward or incredibly difficult.

Whichever the case for you, on my side of the desk, this particular Sailor 1911 goes a long way towards making the decision pretty easy. Put simply, it is a fantastic pen with an exquisite nib, and is routinely one of the first re-inked and most often picked up — particularly for longer form writing. So at the current time, would probably be the one packed for that one way trip.

I’ve written before about my good fortune in receiving a number of pens from a kind reader downsizing their collection. The subject of this review is one such pen, which I have now owned for about 12 months.

Look and Feel

As far as the overall styling is concerned, the Sailor 1911 Large (or Full-size as is the moniker these days) in black and rhodium at least, has a classic, office executive type look, yet retains a certain contemporary sleek as well.

I do own a number of black fountain pens, and acknowledge a cigar shaped black and rhodium pen may be considered boring by some. To me, they are things of beauty, though of course we all have our own styling preferences, and yours may differ with mine on this one.

Although gold coloured accents have a certain appeal, as you can gather, I generally prefer rhodium or silver contrast to my black pens, and this particular model ticks all the boxes, from the nib right through to the top-most decorative ring on the barrel, which itself is matched by the clip ring, bookending the black resin body nicely. The slimmer rhodium ring adjacent to the thicker branding one on the cap is then matched by another at the threads on the section. The branding ring itself carries the Sailor Japan Founded 1911 inscription, clearly giving away the heritage from which the 1911 series derives its name.

Onto the nib itself, which sports a decorative braiding pattern at its perimeter, along with the 1911 insignia, Sailor’s anchor logo, and the 21K and 875 gold designations.1 To delineate the Naginata Togi nib from other versions, an “N” is found on the nib’s left shoulder, along with the “MF” (Medium Fine) nib width of this particular model. The overall beauty of the nib is a great match for its writing ability — that I can guarantee.

FullSizeRender 6

So how does the pen feel in the hand after giving it the once over and writing begins? For me personally, the answer is just about perfect, both from a size and weight perspective. At 122 mm (unposted) the barrel has enough length to provide scope for a higher or lower grip on the section, which I will vary at times during lengthy writing sessions.

I’d describe the overall diameter as mid-sized, and very comfortable. The section tapers just a little from the unobtrusive cap threads towards the nib, before flattening out and flaring again ever so slightly — exactly how I like them. On tapered sections which continue right through to the nib collar, I generally feel my fingers are constantly sliding towards the nib, so prefer a flattening of the taper, or even better, something providing that little bit of feedback to my index finger saying: “things stop here”.

FullSizeRender 5

So in general, this is an extremely well balanced pen, with enough heft to use without posting the cap (as I do), however depending on your own particular preference or perhaps hand size — could be used with the cap posted. Interestingly, I have been coming back around to posting a few more of my mid-size pens of late, and I put it down to more frequent use of fuller size models such as the 1911 Large, and suspect my preferred size and weight sweet spot has now readjusted a little.

Specifications

  • Model: Sailor 1911 Large (Full-size)
  • Material: Resin
  • Colour: Black with Rhodium Trim
  • Nib: 21k gold with rhodium plating; Naginata Togi Medium-Fine
  • Filling system: converter & cartridge
  • Length capped: 140 mm (5.5 inches)
  • Length uncapped: 122 mm (4.8 inches)
  • Length posted: 153 mm (6 inches)
  • Diameter: 15.9 mm (0.625 inches)
  • Weight 23.7 grams (0.8 oz)

Some additional specifications courtesy Pen Chalet

There are numerous nib offerings available with 1911 series pens, and although not all remain available, there are also a number of Sailor specialty nibs at your disposal — some examples of which can be found at Nibs.com.

Writing

I’ve mentioned above the 1911 Large is very comfortable to hold and write with, however it’s really all about the Naginata Togi nib as far as this particular pen is concerned.

The Naginata Togi nib is a member of the Sailor Specialty group of nibs, and as explained on Nibs.com:

Provides variable line width depending on the angle of the pen to the paper – the lower the angle, the broader the line. Available in Medium, Medium-Fine, and Broad

FullSizeRender 7The variation in line width is achieved by a larger than standard amount of tipping material on the nib, which is ground towards a finer point at the tip, widening as it moves away from the actual nib point. Thus, as the pen is lowered towards horizontal, a greater portion of that wider tipping comes into contact with the paper and provides a thicker line. The opposite of course being true as the pen approaches a vertical position. To be honest there is not an overly large amount of line variation, and it is seen mostly on horizontal strokes when comparing near vertical and 45 degree pen angles.

In terms of what you end up seeing on paper — yes, there is some line variation evident through the positioning changes noted above, however it is not a nib designed to achieve graduated line width through pressure — nor is it really suited to changes in line variation mid stroke. Of course with some focused effort this can be achieved, however I think you can imagine the difficulty in changing from a near vertical pen position to 45 degrees or below mid stroke.

IMG_1282

Line variation most evident on horizontal strokes

It is a reasonably firm nib, which I would describe as having a small amount of “give” however there really is zero flex. For standard cursive writing (about 45 degrees in my hand), the nib is an absolute dream. This small amount of give provides for an extremely comfortable writing experience, particularly when writing longer letters or perhaps draft blog posts about itself.

FullSizeRender 8

So where does the line variation of the Naginata Togi nib fit in with the average user? There are a few thoughts which come to mind here. More defined, deliberate writing, for example block printing, perhaps certain lettering types, or languages which use specific stroke widths within letters or phrases. I guess I am thinking along the lines of how one might use an architect ground nib or even your standard stub nib (which, as I’ve noted above, would be better options if a larger amount of line variation is required). One case where I have found the variation handy, is in marking up printed (or even handwritten) pages, and needing to “squeeze in” a few comments in a tight space between lines — vertical we go and those words fit right in.

While the ability to vary the line width is a fantastic option to have with this nib, it is the ability to pick it up and churn out a thousand handwritten words and having the last one as comfortable and enjoyable as the first is where it really shines. The biggest compliment I can give the Naginata Togi nib is that having a unique style of nib does not detract from the purpose I use most of my fountain pens for — medium to long form hand writing (which for me occurs with a fairly standard grip with the pen at about 45 degrees to the page). Of course it depends on the user, however I don’t necessarily think the same could be said about something like a more specific architect ground nib for example.

I say this not to suggest the Naginata Togi is necessarily a better nib than other specific types (which again, for line variation it isn’t), but merely to point out if you are concerned about applications for it — first and foremost (at least in my experience) you end up with an out and out fantastic everyday writing nib.

What you won’t end up with is a “jack of all trades” compromise, and I tend to pick it up just as much if not more (depending on what’s inked) as my Pelikan M805 — an exquisite 18k nib in its own right. So if you don’t intend to use the line variation capabilities much at all, and are simply looking to expand your nib varieties, I’ll say it again — you’ll end up with a fantastic everyday writer out of the deal. Although it is one of the cheaper Sailor specialty nibs (currently adding US$50 to the pen’s US$248.00 list price at Nibs.com), whether or not it is worth the cost is a matter for your budget and conscience I guess.

Not unique to this nib type, though certainly evident on this pen, is the pronounced “sing” it has whilst writing. A feature often described as a squeak or screech, there is a significant noise associated with the nib moving across the paper. More information on this phenomenon can be found on Richard Binder’s site, and is described as follows:

Singing is a harmonic vibration that occurs when friction between the nib’s tip and the paper causes the nib to “stick” and release repeatedly at the resonant frequency of the nib.

Although I’ve not written about resonant frequencies since my university days, I’d have to say in the current context, and given the way the nib writes — it is more music to my ears than annoying to the soul, and perhaps even adds a little more character to the experience of using the pen. I’d suggest it is also part of why I like the nib, most likely contributing to the ever so slight feedback it provides when writing. Whether or not this occurs with other Naginata Togi nibs I cannot say, however I don’t include comment here in a negative sense – more an observation.

Signing Off

The Sailor 1911 Large with the Naginata Togi 21k medium-fine nib. A long enough title in itself. What more can I say? This is simply a fantastic pen all round, and now sits beside the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 as a favourite in my collection.

I’m not someone who writes dozens of letters each week, however if you’ve received one from me in the past year or so, there is a good chance it was written using this Sailor 1911. Once picked up, it exists effortlessly in the hand, following every direction without fail, compromise or question.

If I’m still writing here in 30 years time, I’ve got no doubt many a draft will be written with this pen, however I suspect I might be angling it just a little closer to the page – I’ll be needing those thicker lines by then.


  1. To further explain the 875 gold designation, a definition from Sell Gold HQ:For example 21 karat gold is 87.5% pure gold so a piece of jewellery marked by a European jeweller (or meant for sale in Europe) will be marked 875 instead of 21K.

The Handwritten Draft

2016-06-26 handwritten_post

With so many digital tools at our disposal these days, handwriting often seems so far behind us. Of course many of the individuals whose work I read online are more likely to keep the faith than others, however when the words generally end up as pixels, perhaps it can be hard to justify transferring them from one to the other.

Some time ago I posted a picture on Twitter containing a page of handwritten words with a caption noting the (blog) post was now complete. In response, one commenter stated there was no way they had the time to perform such an undertaking. Another was surprised the proportion of posts I wrote this way was not higher (which I believe I estimated at around 30% at the time).

At the time I considered this for a little while and then didn’t really pay much attention to the thought — until more recently, when I realised the number is now reversed, with around 70-80% of posts you read here written longhand in their draft form1. A complete reversal of that proportion is a significant change, and for such a change to occur without a conscious plan to do so, suggests there are factors at play which perhaps warrant a little more thought.

My typical digital writing workflow

Looking back to the first couple of years of writing here, it is not hard to remember how things went. Ideas were kept in Evernote (often appended to the one note via a Drafts app extension); stimulus and/or reference material gathered online was largely stored in Pocket; and occasional post outlines created as mind maps using MindNode.

Sure, some handwritten notes were made in various pocket notebooks or slightly larger variants, however things were largely digital, and as I think back on it, the proportion was perhaps even higher than the estimated 70% of my original estimation. Even those handwritten ideas soon became text in Drafts or Evernote.

So the digital basis for a post was created, and all that remained was perhaps for some from of outlining and a first draft to follow. As I mentioned above, planning (on the rare times it occurred) was generally undertaken as a mind map, followed by writing — initially in Byword, and since 2014’s NaNoWriMo: Ulysses.

This process seemed to work for a good while, and I was happy enough for it to continue.

Why the change?

Well, in many respects, the following from Steven Pressfield which I linked to in last week’s Wiser Web Wednesday rings true:

For years I dove in on Page One, put my head down and started hammering keys. That’s not always a bad idea. Sometimes it works. But what usually happened for me was I’d get halfway through before it hit me that I was totally lost. Or I’d finish completely only to realize that I basically had to tear the whole house down and start over.

I’ve alluded above to the “rare times” post outlines occurred for good reason. If we take, say, 70% as a reasonable estimate again — that is about the proportion of posts which were written by sitting in front of the keyboard and writing. No real plan or outline other than a few random notes perhaps. That is not to say these posts were necessarily of high quality having been written this way, simply to say I may not have necessarily completed them all with a different approach.

As time has passed, I’ve found this an increasingly difficult way of getting words down on these pages at an acceptable quality and rate. On the surface I am not entirely sure why that is, however suspect (and hope) my writing has at least improved to some degree since commencing this blogging endeavour in the first half of 2013. Like many (I assume) — I don’t tend to go back and read many of my previous posts, however there is probably immeasurable value in doing so. If we then assume I would like my writing here to continue improving, a little more structure was needed.

Part of that structure began with increasing my use of those mind maps, and more recently, outlining in Workflowy. Perhaps there is something in the outlining versus mind mapping debate as far as which suits my style of planning best, however that is a post for another day.

Additionally, a gradual increase in the use of pen and paper to jot down some thoughts, turn them into an outline, and expand into the first draft seemed to improve the process immensely — and certainly did not go unnoticed. In considering how this change had come to be, and whether I should throw more effort into handwriting these posts, I received an article from a friend on this very topic — by author William Boyd, writing in The Guardian:

One great advantage of a longhand draft is that, in transferring it to the computer, every single word is written at least twice. Then the computer draft can be endlessly revised.

When you write in longhand you’re unconsciously aware of aspects of your prose – such as sentence length, cadence, rhythm, repetition, prolixity – that I find keyboard writing doesn’t alert you to in the same way. Also you can see all the litter of the progress you’ve made that day – the scorings-out; the arrows; the insertions; the bubbles; the second, third, fourth choices. The page reflects the mental effort that the screen doesn’t. It’s a toiling, messy business writing a novel.

Now of course I am not talking of novels here, and am always loathe to make comparisons with those who are actually writers (even though I’ve now done it twice in this post already), however the above quotes state quite succinctly what I believe to be occurring here — particularly the thought on every word being written twice, and the possible advantage to that type of approach.

So, in changing how I approach my writing here, where have I now ended up?

My writing process now: analogue first, digital later

For all of the words you’ll read in this post, here is where things are decidedly uncomplicated — probably a very telling point in itself I believe.

There is a pen. There is paper. They have a simple job in getting words on a page, and typically perform it admirably without interruption, syncing, charging or crashing. Save for a few ink refills, once I’m up and away, I’m well…up and away.

That said, I always think it is a little disingenuous to compare pen and paper directly to the digital tools at our disposal these days. After all, there is a heck of a lot those digital tools can do — and do extremely well, that our humble analogue favourites cannot. Once those words are transferred into the digital realm, they are available to me everywhere; are searchable; editable; and eventually exported and published.

As I mentioned earlier, a post starts as an idea, is expanded into an outline (which may equally occur in digital form), then written as a longhand first draft – all very simple.

Sure, those original source containers remain, in places such as Pocket, Safari, Notes, or even web-captured PDF’s, however you’ll find a good many more on scraps of paper or in pocket notebooks as well. Put an outline in Workflowy into the mix, displayed on my iPad beside me, and the handwritten words simply flow.

For those who perhaps may be interested in the specific tools, let’s just say it is a team effort — with many of the fountain pens, inks and notebooks I own all playing their part. You may have previously read about some of them — or may indeed do so in the future.

Of course, some of you reading this will have no doubt been writing this way for a long, long time — particularly pen bloggers and the handwritten review, to which none of this is particularly ground breaking — a fact I readily acknowledge.

Advantages of writing in longhand

Now, I’m sure we’ve all seen various articles around the web reporting on the benefits of taking notes by hand as far as retention and learning, however that is not what I’m talking about here.

In slowly transitioning to writing a larger proportion of posts this way, you would be correct in thinking there must be some underlying benefit. For me, the benefits are two-fold: more enjoyable writing, and more effective writing.

As far as more enjoyable writing is concerned, there would hardly be a pen lover amongst us that would not enjoy using their favourite pens and inks on a more consistent and frequent basis. Fountain pens are drained, more inks are sampled and notebooks filled. Contrasting inks are used for editing and revision. It is not so hard to see the benefits here.

I’m a little suspicious that somewhere in the recesses of my mind I seek to continue this cycle of more pens, more inks and more notebooks — though I am hoping for perhaps a more noble conclusion about this improved writing process.

How about more effective work?

Explaining the benefits I see in this aspect of my writing is perhaps a slightly more difficult proposition to those heavily invested in digital workflows for such a thing. The fact I have written many more drafts this way which remain unpublished is a victory in itself — for the more I write, the more I’ll eventually publish. As I’ve written about before, unpublished posts remain so often due to topic rather than process or quality, though of course not publishing garbage is also an ongoing aim.

So just how is writing in longhand more effective for me? Quite simply in the flow words onto the page. I’m a bit of a tweaker really, and when writing digitally at a keyboard, tend to stop, think and edit a little as I go, which on a first draft, ends up taking an eternity, given the amount of editing and rewriting which occurs. When drafting in longhand, I stop, think, and then continue writing — saving the editing and revisions for a few inserted notes, highlights or strikethroughs later, followed by an automatic editing stage as the handwritten words are transcribed digitally the first time.

I find I am far more effective at actually getting from start to finish, and by the time the first digital draft appears in Ulysses, it has been reviewed and has been rewritten as it is transcribed.

A final read through and revision is (usually) all that is then required before publishing. Conversely, with all the stop start editing, a post beginning its life in digital form may see a two-fold increase in the number of edits and revisions made prior to posting, for I believe no great improvement in content or quality. Even the “just jump in start writing” approach was in the past more effective than the constant “write and tweak” which tends to occur the longer I have a post in my Ulysses drafts folder.

Put simply — drafting in longhand sees more writing and less endless tweaking. A win for me by any measure.

Pitfalls of this approach

With any approach to something like writing, things will never be perfect, and yes — of course there are some disadvantages to writing this way.

One such disadvantage I’ve found is in covering some of the same ground twice. At times I don’t always have the same notebook with me, and in picking up where I left off (or at least thinking I am), I’ll occasionally rewrite a section.

Why I do that is anyone’s guess, and you could validly argue why on earth wouldn’t I remember where I was up to — and to be honest I cannot really answer that. Of course this is simply a process fault which could be easily rectified by ensuring I do have a specific notebook dedicated to this process which is always available when I need it. The reason that perhaps won’t happen is that I’m often trying out different notebooks and enjoy a little variety what I am using. In any event, yes it may be wasted time in some respects, however on the plus side I do get to then choose from the better draft, and I’d also refer you to the more enjoyable writing paragraph above.

To a lesser extent, even when I do use the same notebook, given these drafts often occur in fits and starts over a number of days, most sections of the posts have other material interspersed on pages between them, so there is a little flipping backwards and forwards at times through the actual notebook. Not a big deal, and assisted by reasonably consistent indexing and notations of page numbers.

Finally, and probably most obvious to many who write digitally — time. Yes, this approach would of course take far longer than an exclusively digital form of writing, with syncing across multiple devices and ease of editing, rearranging and rewriting those words. If that is how you write, you’ll hear no argument from me, and I’m certainly not advocating throwing away your keyboard.

Things have simply changed a little in how I approach my writing, and I am finding it far more enjoyable these days, so thought I’d share a little about the changes, and my thoughts around these processes.

Signing off

There is nothing like sitting down and outlining, drafting and revising a post such as this one, to point yourself in the direction of possible improvements in some of these processes — and this one is no different.

It looks as though I may need another notebook or two, some more ink, and maybe even another pen. Such a shame. If my new-found longhand writing process requires a few more tools and a broader experience in using them — I’m all for it.

While you may not end up reading them all, I can guarantee there will be plenty of writing going on, and for that I couldn’t be happier.


  1. Of course here I exclude the Wiser Web Wednesday link posts, which are generally put together via the iOS share sheet extension and sent straight to Ulysses ↩︎

Faber-Castell Ambition OpArt Fountain Pen

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Upon first seeing this pen and turning it over in my hand as all pen enthusiasts tend to do, I wasn’t sure exactly how much use it would see in the grand scheme of my pen usage. It soon became clear the answer to that question was a lot more than I’d envisaged on that first impression.

I have a certain fondness for uniformly cylindrical or straight-barrelled pens, the origin of which I’m a little unclear on, though it is present nonetheless. Perhaps it is the variety in appearance from the usual tapered, cigar-shaped form, or perhaps there is some suitability to my grip and writing style. Further consideration and rumination about such things in preparing this post brings me to the conclusion both are relevant, however I suspect it is more likely form rather than function.

The Faber-Castell Ambition OpArt is another addition to this subset of pens, and became regularly inked over the subsequent months.

Look and Feel

I’ve touched on the form factor a little above, however it bears repeating here. Of course I do enjoy the aesthetics and feel of my tapered pens as well, however find those uniform in diameter end to end pleasing to look at, and comfortable enough during use. As you can see from the images, the Ambition carries such a form factor, as does the Lamy Pur, which I wrote about a little while ago.

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In the case of the Ambition, to accommodate the cap within this style creates both a substantial step down to the grip section, and a very short section once there. In this particular case the step transition is low enough on the pen (due to the very short section) not to worry me. If your particular grip style results in finger placement further down the barrel, there may be an issue. Alternatively, and again depending on your preference, this may provide a means of grip stability or a balance point, which I find occurs with the step on the section of a Pilot Metropolitan.

The overall diameter of the pen is not overly large, giving the impression of more length than there probably is, which incidentally measures 12 centimetres when uncapped, and almost 14 with the cap on (an identical length to a capped Lamy Safari for reference). The overall feel in the hand is one of lightness and even balance, which is unlikely to lead to any undue hand fatigue. Post the cap however and that is another story — more on this below.

The chrome-plated cap and bridge-shaped clip are certainly sturdy enough, and being on the shorter end of the spectrum suit the overall look of the pen. The cap fits flush with the barrel to create the appearance of one smooth form, contrasted only by the colour and texture of the barrel.

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Speaking of which, it is in the guilloche texturing of the barrel which really gives this pen its character. The green colour you see here is listed on the Faber-Castell Australian site as the OpArt Curry edition. Though understandable, in the context of the some of the other colour names like Blue Ocean and Black Sand — it is a somewhat curious choice.

FullSizeRender 4fc_ambitionThe design of the pen gives the appearance the chrome-plated posting knob and section run continuously through the centre of the pen, however of course these are merely fixed to either end of the resin barrel, which ensures the overall weight remains low. In the case of the section, a threaded attachment allows access to the cartridge or converter.

Uncapped, the barrel is bookended by the chrome-plated posting knob and very small section — both of which are proportional in size. With the cap posted, you have a perfect mirror of the capped symmetry of the pen, with the exception of the exposed nib ready for use. The section flows on to the stainless steel nib, which has an attractive pinhole dot patterning, and although not overly elaborate — suits me fine.

Specifications

The following specifications courtesy Cult Pens:

  • Model: Faber-Castell OpArt Ambition Fountain Pen
  • Material: Metal and matt engraved guilloche resin
  • Cap: snap on, chrome-plated (very secure posting)
  • Clip: chrome-plated spring-loaded
  • Weight: 28g
  • Length: 138mm capped, 120mm uncapped, 156mm posted.
  • Stainless-steel nib.
  • Filling mechanism: Standard International Cartridge; Converter
  • Nib: Stainless Steel

As noted above, the Ambition uses a standard international cartridge, or Faber-Castell converter. As is often the case, other converters are likely to fit, however I haven’t specifically tested this.

As far as cost and availability are concerned, the Ambition can be found in variants of colour and barrel design/material at various online retailers:

My local pen stores Pen & Ink (AU$145.00) and The Pen Shoppe (AU$135.00) also have some listings. I would note the quoted prices here are for slightly different finishes, and can approach AU$300.00 for the Coconut Wood model for example.

Writing

The Ambition comes with a stainless steel nib, and it is a beauty. Equal to any of the other steel nibs in my collection, and better than many.

FullSizeRenderfc_ambitionBeing stainless steel, you expect a reasonably firm nib, and is certainly what you find here. A little pressure will provide some give, however a good deal of pressure is required for a minimal amount of line variation, and of course if that is what you are after this pen wouldn’t be high on your shopping list anyway.

The medium nib on the model I own is as smooth as they come, and I don’t believe I’ve seen a single line of a single letter ever skip — from the first stroke onward. Depending on your individual style, the firmness of the nib may dig in a little on softer paper, however with the medium nib I’ve not had any problems across a broad range from office copy paper through to Rhodia or Tomoe River.

The nib is not what you’d call spectacular in appearance, sporting a very small Faber-Castell two jousting knights logo and series of pinholes patterned in V-shaped alignment with the nib, rather than a single breather hole. Finishing things off is the M nib width designation.

Although not a large nib, it is a little longer for its size than some of my others, which suits the overall balance of the pen when writing. As I’ve mentioned, the very short section on the pen will, for many, necessitate a grip above this point a little further up the barrel. The length of the nib assists the balance of this arrangement by providing a little extra reach towards the page.

I do not typically post many of my pens, and I would think the weight of the cap will likely prevent that with the Ambition, even if posting was your usual preference. Once posted, the pen’s centre of gravity is shifted to the join between the cap and the barrel, which is very high, and well above the webspace of your hand. Upon writing this way it almost feels as though the nib constantly wants to lift off the page.

Comparing the weight of the cap in one hand and the pen in the other, the two feel reasonably similar, and upon checking, the cap itself weighs in at over 14 grams. Perhaps not astounding in itself, however if we refer back to the specifications above, the entire pen is listed as 28 grams (I make it 27 however you get the idea)! That is over 50% of the entire weight in the cap alone (many of my other pens are around 30-40%). Although considerable, it is not surprising given the dramatic change in balance when posted — which I would not really think is an option unless you have fairly large hands.

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Over longer writing sessions, the Ambition is probably not quite as comfortable as some larger diameter pens with a tapered form, however here I am referring to a three or four A4 pages before I began to have those thoughts. As a result, I found most use occurred with tasks such as outlining a post over two or three A5 pages, or using a coloured ink to mark up printed documents and the like. For longer conference call note taking or handwritten first drafts, the level of hand fatigue I’d say was probably a little higher than some of my other pens. Of course that is exactly why I have more than one — and I’m happy this is one of them.

Signing Off

How to sum things up with the Faber-Castell Ambition?

FullSizeRender 3fc_ambitionOverall, it is a well-balanced (sans posting) pen with one of the smoothest stainless steel nibs I own, housed in an unusual and eye-catching finish. I’m quite find of the uniformity in the cylindrical form of the pen, and have no problem with the shortness of the section when it comes to writing. If you are perhaps hesitant to spend in the mid one hundreds, I wouldn’t be concerned in relation to the nib. If the design suits your taste, I’m sure you’ll find the nib an absolute bargain given its performance.

A great combination of attractive form and superb function, though as always, particularly if you have concerns about that section — always best to try before you buy (often difficult I know). I personally found it better for short to medium length writing sessions, and will be happy to pick it up often for such occasions in the future.

Now, I’m off to do other things — I have ambition you know.