Economical Links for 2017.08.18

A quiet week on the economical stationery front, but here are a few interesting links:

Fountain Pen Review: Muji Fountain Pen (via The Well-Appointed Desk)
Another nice, inexpensive Japanese store brand pen.
Prospective Look at the 2017 San Francisco International Pen Show (via Hand Over That Pen)
If you’re going to the SF Pen Show, I’m Diamine Kelly Green with envy.
DNA of long-dead cows read from pages of Medieval books (via The Cramped)
The researchers obtained the DNA from waste eraser rubbings. What could scientists learn from your eraser rubbings?
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Let’s Talk About the Lamy Vista

Ah, the oft-overlooked Lamy Vista. The odd pen out in the Lamy Safari/AL-star family, the Vista is a pen for those who like the Safari’s aesthetic and want to see it in demonstrator form.

I received this Vista as a gift, and it holds considerable sentimental value. This has undoubtedly influenced my opinion, so take this post with a grain of salt.

The Lamy Vista is the clear demonstrator version of the Lamy Safari. Aside from the color difference, the Vista is a Safari in every other way, right down to the ink level cutouts in the barrel, which are of course made completely unnecessary by the Vista’s transparent plastic.

The Vista accepts proprietary Lamy ink cartridges as well as the Z24 and Z28 converters. I’ve used this pen with both cartridges and a converter, and I prefer the cartridges because they hold more ink and because I don’t like the red knob on the converter.

Red clashes; black goes with everything. Why, Lamy, why? (photo source: lamy.com)

While I understand why the Vista has the ink cutout windows, they create a huge missed opportunity. Can you imagine this pen as an eyedropper? You’d probably have enough ink to write Ulysses. As it is, you’ll have to settle for admiring your ink from within a cartridge or converter.

The cap is mostly clear plastic, with the classic U-shaped Safari clip and black plastic “+” finial. The inner cap is metal, with a black seal that fits snugly around the shoulders of the section. While the metal inner cap does disrupt the demonstrator aesthetic, it makes up for it by securely sealing the nib when the pen is capped. Even after sitting for several weeks, this pen has started on the first stroke every time.

(Note: the streak of green in this photo is a stray reflection. There’s no actual green anywhere on this pen.)

The cap can be posted, and it fits on the barrel deeply and securely. In my smaller hands, posting the cap makes the pen feel unbalanced, so I prefer to use my Vista unposted.

The Vista is what I’d call a typically sized modern pen. Indeed, Safaris/AL-stars/Vistas are so ubiquitous that most pen reviews have at least one in their size comparison photos as a standard of reference. As I tend to favor smaller pens, this Vista is one of the larger pens in my collection.

L to R: TWSBI Diamond Mini Classic, Lamy Vista, vintage Sheaffer Balance
L to R: TWSBI Diamond Mini Classic, Lamy Vista, vintage Sheaffer Balance

For a mostly-plastic pen, the Vista feels substantial but not overly heavy. It’s heavier than the Pilot Kakuno, the Jinhao 992, and the Hero 1202, but it’s lighter than the Pilot Metropolitan. For me, the unposted Vista is in that sweet spot of weight and balance that makes it well-suited for long writing sessions.

Aside from their looks, perhaps the most controversial thing about the Safari/Vista is the shaped section. Most pen folks seem to love shaped sections or hate them.

I find the Vista’s section comfortable, but I have small hands and hold my pens in the standard tripod grip. For this reason, I strongly suggest trying a Safari/AL-star/Vista in person before buying one.

This particular Vista came to me with an EF nib. Lamy nibs tend to run wide in sizing, and I’d describe this EF as similar to a Japanese medium. This Vista’s nib suits my teeny-tiny handwriting just fine.

The nib is made of steel, with its tipping shaped into a rounded ball. The result is consistent lines with no variation.

In my experience, this nib writes on the dry side with most inks. It has a bit of feedback that I liked more than I thought I would. It’s not at all scratchy, but also not as smooth as a Japanese nib. The nib on this Vista wrote perfectly out of the box.

A nice thing about Safaris/AL-stars/Vistas is that their nibs are interchangeable and easily swapped. Buy one pen and a bunch of different nibs, and you could go from an EF to a 1.9mm stub without breaking the bank.

This Lamy Vista is the most reliable pen in my collection. It starts up every time and never skips. It works so well it’s almost boring. I’m pretty sure the Germans would call that a success, and I can see why these pens are a modern classic.

That said, I don’t feel compelled to add an AL-star or Safari to my collection, though this year’s Safari Petrol limited edition was awfully tempting because I liked the color. But I’m not sure I want to fall down the rabbit hole of acquiring multiples of the same pen in different colors. I’d rather invest in a wide array of nib sizes instead.

Since nearly everyone has at least one Safari, AL-star, or Vista in their collection, I’d love to hear what you think about yours.

This Lamy Vista was given to me as a gift. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.

Economical Links for 2017.08.11

Some links to the like-minded:

Fountain Pen Review: Sheaffer VFM (via The Well-Appointed Desk)
Alas, modern Sheaffer.
Review: Pelikan Twist Fountain Pen (via Gourmet Pens)
This might be the only Pelikan I’d spend money on.
Dryden Design Classic Fountain Pen (via Best Fountain Pen)
Never heard of this brand — until now.
Kaweco Ice Sport Fountain Pen Review (via The Pen Addict)
Will this be the year I finally buy a Kaweco?
Elysee Fountain Pen (via 7hedaniel)
Vintage value pens. I wonder if these ever made it across the pond.
Zycc Navy Blue (via Wondernaut)
An ink that performs decently and costs $1.50 for 15ml, shipped? Now you have my attention.

iPenBox Subscription Boxes Surprise With Stationery Delights

I found myself in a stationery rut earlier this year. There are so many products available, with more announced daily, and being faced with an overwhelming number of choices left me paralyzed with indecision about what to try next. I kept looking at the same familiar pens, papers, and inks — great when your needs are specific and routine, but not so great when you’re a blogger. I needed to branch out.

Then I stumbled across the iPenBox subscription box.

iPenstore offers the iPenBox subscription box for $30 a month, including shipping. The subscription is available for international folks, but at a price of $40 per month. As a subscriber, you receive a small box in the mail every month filled with 5-10 stationery items. These could be fountain pens, pencils, paper, stickers, office and desk supplies. If it’s small, inexpensive, and of interest to stationery lovers, it could show up an iPenBox.

In other words, it sounds perfect for me so I had to give it a try. I’ve received the July and August boxes, and here are my first impressions, as well as how I feel about the service as a whole.

I subscribed in June and received my first shipment the second week of July. Boxes typically arrive the first or second week of the month.

It’s hard not to get excited when this shows up in your mailbox:

The packaging was simple, but secure.

Inside was a whole host of goodies! Apparently each month’s box has a theme, and this one was “Color Pop.”

I’m going to highlight a few items now, but I’m also going to skip a few of the pens and notebooks that deserve in-depth reviews. Look for them in the future. There’s a full listing of all the items in each box at the end of this post.

There were a couple of Pilot Varsity pens with medium nibs, and this cute (in size) but retina-searing mini notebook made by MIQUELRIUS.

I was pleasantly surprised by the paper’s performance with fountain pens.

A little bit of bleedthrough but not terrible.

Also in the box was a pair of tiny novelty erasers. These aren’t very practical so I doubt I’ll end up using them.

There was a sample of Monteverde Purple Reign. This is not a color I would have sought out on my own, but the ink performs well. I’ve only tried a few Monteverde inks, but have been impressed with them so far.

The “main” items in the box were a Sheaffer VFM ballpoint pen and a Jinhao 992.

I’m not a fan of ballpoints so while the pen is nice, it’s not really my thing.

The Jinhao 992 is a wonderful pen that’s felled by an Achilles heel of brittle, crack-prone plastic. If you like to play with fire or ticking time bombs, the 992 is the pen for you.

Rounding out the July box was a Pentel RSVP pen in a GO ‘MURICA! colorway, a small pack of flag-style sticky notes, a sample of Monteverde pen flush, and a lolipop treat. There was also a postcard from Michigan (cool) and a coupon for 10% off at iPenstore.

Overall, I was pleased with the July box. There were a couple pens I didn’t care for due to personal preferences, but most of the items are things I can (and will) use. The items fit the theme, and the total cost of the contents of the box came out ahead of the $30 fee. (There’s a full cost breakdown at the end of this post.)

Next up is the August box, which arrived this week.

ooooh, mysterious packaging… What could this month’s theme be?

Yes, this month’s theme is “Eclipse,” which is appropriate given that the US is experiencing Total Solar Eclipse mania leading up to the big event on August 21st. Anyway, there weren’t as many items in this box, but they made up for lack of numbers with some “ooohhh!” factor.

The first thing I examined was the Schneider Voyage fountain pen (the white pen at the top of the photo above.) The Voyage is a simple plastic pen that takes cartridges. I’ve wanted to try a Schneider pen for a long time so I was happy to see one here.

There was also a Rosetta Notes pocket notebook, a sheet of moon phase stickers from Stickerology, another 10% off coupon, and a Starburst treat. Very cool.

The “main” item in the box was a Retro 51 Tornado “Apollo” rollerball pen. These Tornado pens are a constant presence in the stationery blogosphere, so I’m eager to see if they live up to the hype. Maybe it’ll convert me into a rollerball believer.

There was also a sample of Diamine Eclipse ink, which is an interesting purple-black. Again, another color I wouldn’t have picked out on my own but am glad to have in my collection.

I really enjoyed this month’s box. The theme was perfect and the items were an A+ fit.

So. Two boxes in, the biggest question is “Is the iPenBox subscription box worth the price?” Let’s take a look.

I had to estimate prices for certain items so these totals aren’t exact, but they’re close enough to see that the value of the contents in each box has exceeded the $30 subscription price. And that’s not even factoring in the cost of shipping that you’d have to pay if you bought the items on your own.

Another thing I found helpful is that iPenBox lists the contents of every box they’ve shipped on their website. If you’re thinking about subscribing, peruse some of the past boxes to see if the items catch your fancy. Past items are of course no guarantee of what you’ll get in the future, but it gives you an idea of what you’re signing up for.

With these things in mind, is the iPenBox worth it? I say yes.

I plan to continue my subscription. The boxes are a fun surprise every month, with well-curated contents. Plus, they’re a good value for the money. If you’re looking for something to push you out of your stationery comfort zone, give the iPenBox a try.

I purchased this iPenBox subscription with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.