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Reviews Written by zero.dgz
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I'm going to have to..., March 2, 2009
I'm going to have to join the chorus of praises on this page and sing another one for the Pilot Parallel.
It's a bit of a paradox. The Parallel is cheap - very cheap. And it's overtly plastic, and it's not even that elegantly put together. Its plastic parts have seam lines all over the place, the silver color of the body isn't 100% even... And yet, it doesn't matter one lick, because the Parallel is simply the best writing calligraphy fountain pen I've ever used.
The secret, of course, is Pilot's "parallel plate" nib. The name is a little ambiguous; After all, every calligraphy fountain pen nib consists of two "parallel" plates, one next to the other with a split down the middle. The Pilot pen, on the other hand, has two plates sandwiched on top of each other. Ink flows between them and because of the comparatively massive capillary surface area it's kept flowing smoothly and is remarkably resistant to drying out in the nib.
The end result works surprisingly well. The Parallel is somewhat sensitive to how flat you hold its nib against the paper, moreso than traditional calligraphy pens, but when used correctly it produces the cleanest, crispest, most even lines I've ever experienced. It's nib-to-paper feel is likewise excellent and is usually an indicator of how you're handling the pen. If the feel isn't silky-smooth it's a surefire sign that you're not holding the nib flat.
That said, the Parallel is a very wet writer (as repeatedly mentioned by others) and because of this you have to be a bit careful about how fast you write and what kind of paper you use. The Parallel is undoubtedly capable of being used on just about any paper (except maybe paper towels, or tissue paper) if you get the lead out and don't let the nib stay stationary for long. On coarse or porous paper, though, that huge capillary surface area can whip up an inkblot the size of a quarter in seconds if you just poke the nib into one place and leave it there, so don't do that. If you have a habit of resting or tapping the nib against your paper while you ponder your next sentence, do yourself a favor and knock it off.
The only ink I've tried in mine so far is the stock Pilot branded stuff that came with it, so I can't comment on how thinner versus thicker inks will work with the Parallel. Reports indicate that thicker inks will be more controllable, and I can certainly see how that would be true. When it's moving, at least, the Parallel is about as wet as the customized (ground nib) Sheaffer I'm used to using, so I would imagine it'd do just fine with ink similar to Sheaffer's "Skrip" stuff and equivalents.
Towards that end, the Parallel comes with a couple of goodies of varying utility. There's a nib cleaning card, for a start, which is meant to be used to floss dirt and paper swarf out from between the nib plates. You get one measley black cartridge and one red with the pen, and they're proprietary to Pilot pens and functionally unavailable in the US except by mail order. You get a converter cartridge with the set but it's a rubber "squeeze bulb" design that's got miserable suction and worse capacity. Pilot insists that the converter cartridge is only intended to be used to clean the pen (by sucking up and backwashing water or cleaning fluid through the nib) and I'd just as soon take their word for it. If you want to refill the Parallel, get a syringe and just refill an empty cartridge instead.
My only other complaint is that the Parallel doesn't come with any sort of pocket clip. It makes sense, because the pen's body is longer than your usual pocket-pen, but it makes life difficult for those of us who use our calligraphy pens for day-to-day writing. (The dingus that sticks out of the Parallel's cap, if you're wondering, is just a flap of plastic that's meant to keep the pen from rolling away.) There's also no way to affix the cap to the tail of the pen, so you'll have to find someplace else to stick it while you're writing.
If you want shiny, the..., March 2, 2009
If you want shiny, the F-Lapa has it in spades.
I was initially a bit skeptical about the quality of this pen after reading a few negative reviews on Ohto's Fine series, which seems to have much the same mechanism and construction. For the price, though, the F-Lapa left me pleasantly surprised.
It's not spectacular, but it's by no means bad - Just an average, performs-as-advertised elegant pen for a fantastic price. You could certainly do a lot worse for yourself with a 15 dollar spending budget. The nib may be cheap, and it may be "fake" gold (it's just plated) but at least it writes nicely and smoothly. It's actually about as fine as my Sheaffer fine nibs. There are no skipping or starting problems to speak of, and the pen taking standard International Short cartridges is a plus. There are no seam lines on the plasticwork, the shiny chrome finish is flawless, and all the parts fit together nicely. My only real complaint is the somewhat tacky black lettering around the base of the cap, which can't be removed without damaging the finish of the pen (apparently it's silkscreened on).
For a lousy fifteen dollars you should be buying a five-and-ten special plastic bodied knockoff brand pen, but instead you can get the thoroughly capable and undoubtedly stylish F-Lapa.
These glass pens look..., March 2, 2009
These glass pens look like the most unlikely contraption ever devised. "How could THAT possibly work?" You think to yourself.
The fascinating part is that they DO.
In addition to looking absolutely awesome, these pens write beautifully. The tips aren't as glassy smooth as you might expect (pun partially intended) but that might be a good thing -- The slightly scratchy feel of the glass pen is sort of like that of a mechanical pencil. If the tips WERE 100% polished the pen would probably be prone to skitter right off the edge of the page and onto the floor.
These pens seem to prefer light, thin ink. I tried some Sanford branded black "calligraphy ink" and it functioned flawlessly. Conversely, I tried some Windsor & Newton silver ink that I thought would look really cool, but it didn't flow well enough off to write and seemed to dry up on the glass nib within a handful of seconds.
These pens are somewhat sensitive to the angle at which you hold them, and will write darker, wetter lines for longer if you keep the pen pointed straight up and down as opposed to at an angle. Still, I was surprised to find that these glass pens hold more ink and write for longer than traditional metal-nibbed dip pens like Speedball and so forth.
Paper matters a lot, too. The pens seem to dig into thin, porous paper too much, bleeding all over the place and shedding their ink much too quickly. On finer toothed, heavier paper you can write very fine, clean lines.
I don't think I'll be using either of my glass pens for any of the bulk of my day-to-day writing (I still haven't been able to motivate myself to carry an inkwell everywhere) but they are neater than heck, and if you're looking for something unique and different these just might turn your crank. They're not the easiest thing in the world to use (even compared to other dip pens), but man are they cool.