I’m Leaving Home For 10 Weeks and Bringing These Pens with Me

By the time this post goes live, I’ll be on a plane to Bulgaria, where I’ll spend the next 10 weeks living out of a carry-on bag. I’ll also be 9,771 kilometers away from my stationery stash, and it’s been quite the puzzle figuring out what goodies to bring with me.

I’ve always packed lightly, be it for a backpacking trip, motorbike adventure, or jaunt across the Atlantic. The whole idea of bringing a bunch of notebooks and pens clashes with my minimalist packing tendencies. As I only started bringing paper back into my life within the last couple of years, finding balance here is something I’m still working out.

First, I must apologize for reusing the following photo from last week’s post. It’s been crazy busy at Penster HQ as I’ve scrambled to prepare for my trip, and I didn’t get a chance to gather everything for a nice photo shoot.

For paper, I’m taking the Hobonichi trio I wrote about last week. This is a case where Hobonichi’s dedication to making compact notebooks really shines. Space is at a premium in my carry-on bag, and these three cram a lot of pages into some wee little books.

I was really torn about taking my Traveler’s Notebook, and ultimately decided against it. Spending 10 weeks in Europe sounds like the perfect chance to get my TN on, but due to certain particulars about this trip, I won’t have the time to do much travel journaling. I think I can get by with my Techo alone. But who knows — this might come down to a game-time decision. [Update: I changed my mind because of course I did. My TN is tucked into the last remaining space in my bag.]

When I started thinking about what to pack, I set a limit of six pens. Even six feels like too many, but I have some reviews in progress where I need to give the pens more of a workout before I can pass judgment upon them. Bringing the pens along will kill a few birds with one stone.

Here are the fountain pens I’m taking:

  • Pilot Metropolitan (F nib)
  • Lamy Vista (EF nib)
  • Namiki Vanishing Point (M nib)
  • Wing Sung 698 (F nib)
  • TWSBI Vac Mini (F nib)

The Metro, Vista, and VP are workhorse pens that I use on the regular. They’re traveling empty and un-inked. The Wing Sung 698 and TWSBI are newer acquisitions that hold gallons of ink. They’re on the flight with me fully inked because I like to live dangerously. (I also want to test the TWSBI’s ink shutoff valve.)

Mathematically-inclined readers might have noted that I’ve only written about five pens. That’s because the sixth pen I’m taking is not a fountain pen.

This sleek beauty is my everyday pen at work. It’s a vintage Pilot 2+1 multipen and I’ve never seen anything else quite like it. I don’t know much about it — not even what its real name is. I’ve been told that it’s around 40 years old. Despite its age, it takes most D1 refills.

Speaking of refills, I’ve packed a few spare D1s. For fountain pen ink, I have a nearly-full bottle of Waterman Inspired Blue, a few Lamy cartridges, a pack of Pilot Blue-Black cartridges, and a small 8ml bottle of Iroshizuku Yu-yake. That should be plenty.

If I run out of anything, I’ll just buy more. I’ll be scoping out the stationery scene regardless. If it’s anything like the bookstore scene in Sofia, I’ll be in great shape. If not, there’s always the Pilot G2 I stash in my laptop bag as a spare. And the other G2 I keep in my carry-on. And the other G2 I clip inside the top of my sock, like a shiv.

Always be prepared, I say. See you on the other side of the pond.

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The Wing Sung 618 Is the Good Kind of Chimera

To behold a Wing Sung 618 is to behold a chimera: that Parker-esque clip, that Sailor-esque cap band, that TWSBI-esque piston mechanism. With all these -esques, is it any surprise this pen is made in China?

But the Wing Sung 618 isn’t the typical Chinese clone, and in fact I hesitate to call it a clone at all. It’s more of a mash-up of good ideas from some very good pens, and the big question is: did Wing Sung put them all together to make a coherent whole?

Let’s start with the basics. The 618 is a plastic pen with a piston filling mechanism. Originally available as a clear demonstrator, there are now several different colors to choose from, all demonstrators, ranging from red and blue to sparkly pink and green. The trim is available in silver or gold. There’s even a 12k gold nib option if you’re feeling extra fancy.

My 618 is the clear version with silver trim and a steel nib.

The cap opens just shy of a single turn, revealing something interesting: a hooded nib in demonstrator form.

A clear feed with a hooded nib? INSTANT HEART EYES. 😍

The section is generally narrow, but its conical shape means the diameter varies depending on where you hold it. I’d say that the section width ranges from a Pilot Metropolitan to the Lamy Safari in size.

In terms of dimensions, the 618 is comparable with the Lamy Safari/Vista.



I found the 618 comfortable to use for all kinds of writing, from short notes to multiple pages. It’s not a heavy pen, but it still feels substantial. When writing with it unposted, it’s nicely balanced in my hand. Posting the cap threw the balance off in a way I found unpleasant. I also couldn’t make the cap post securely without it wiggling loose after a while. Lucky for me, I only post pens for science.

The cap is transparent, accented with silver-colored fittings. The clip is a clear knockoff of the venerable Parker arrow. It’s nothing special, just a simple one-piece with a bend into the finial, but it’s secure without being too tight. The cap finial is a simple silver dome. Inside is a cap liner made from a slightly smoky-colored plastic. It’s one of the better cap liners I’ve seen in a demonstrator because the nib is still easy to see when the pen is capped.

The cap band is another design knockoff, this time from Sailor. It’s engraved with “WING SUNG 618 MADE IN CHINA”.

I don’t know what the fittings are made from, but in the two months I’ve had this pen, they’ve kept their silver color.

Demonstrator fans will enjoy looking at the barrel end of the 618, because there’s a lot to see. There’s a piston mechanism that’s similar to the ones in TWSBI pens, and a blind cap that operates the piston when twisted.

It’s here that Wing Sung has added a feature that I’ve never seen on a piston pen: a locking blind cap. Look closely at the next photo, and note the notch in the silver ring where the blind cap meets the barrel.

This notch has a corresponding mate on the blind cap itself. To unlock the blind cap, pull it away from the barrel. To lock it, line up the notches and push the cap in until it clicks. It’s a simple design that keeps the blind cap from rattling and spinning around.

Once you understand how the blind cap locks and unlocks, filling this pen is a breeze. Unlock the blind cap, dunk the nib into the ink far enough to cover the opening in the hood, and twist until the pen loads up about a gallon of ink. Lock the blind cap and you’ll be writing for a long time before you need a refill.

The nib on this pen is steel, though the 618 is also available with a 12k gold nib for five times the price of the steel nib version ($50 vs $10.)



This pen was advertised as having a fine nib and it makes a line somewhere between a Japanese fine and a Japanese medium. Like most steel nibs, it’s a nail, so don’t expect any flex or line variation. The nib wrote smoothly out of the box and didn’t require any tuning. I enjoy writing with it, though I wish it was a smidge wider. Fine and extra fine nibs are available for the 618, but nothing else, alas.

The overall construction is excellent. The plastic appears to be high-quality, and there were no mold lines or sprue left over from the manufacturing process. In my opinion, this pen is better constructed than the pens offered by the major manufacturers in the $20-$40 price range.

As with most Chinese pens, if you want a 618 and you don’t speak Chinese, you’ll have to look on eBay. Buyer beware: it’s like the Wild West out there, and counterfeits of Wing Sung pens do exist. FPN is a good resource for locating reputable eBay sellers. I purchased my 618 for $12.90 from seller art-pen-book-dy. The price has actually dropped to $9.52 since I bought mine in September, making the 618 an even better deal today. I like my 618 so much I’m not even mad I missed the lower price.

The Wing Sung 618 is like a Parker 51 and a TWSBI ECO got together and made a beautiful baby. It’s the best parts of other pens put together and the end result is perfectly executed. And you can buy one for less than $10! Hot damn, I want to see more of this from Chinese manufacturers. More mashups, less clones!

This Wing Sung 618 was paid for with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.