Kaco Alpha gel pens

A few years ago I bought Kaco’s Alpha gel pens in Shanghai [1]Shanghai is also the city where Kaco is based. The Alpha pens are part of Kaco’s KacoGreen range.

When I asked an employee from a Kaco stall they told me that ‘green’ refers to the fact that the plastic from these pens can be recycled [2]It is rather cheeky to name something ‘green’ because it can be recycled, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the employee just made it up. Green might not mean anything here..

The pens feature a pleasant to touch rubberised grip section and there’s one of each letter and number. The letters, where most pens have the clip, prevent the pens from rolling off the table. The gel ink is black.

As I am currently clearing out I am selling these on eBay for 99p each. Figuring out postage to all countries is messy, but if you are interested and are not in the UK please contact me and I can look into what the cheapest postage is.

Below are two more videos: a funny video I found about the Kaco Alpha…

..and a video I made about some other Kaco products.

References

References
1Shanghai is also the city where Kaco is based
2It is rather cheeky to name something ‘green’ because it can be recycled, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the employee just made it up. Green might not mean anything here.

Narwhal piston filler in yellow tang 1

Acrylic fountain pens [1]fountain pens with bodies made from acrylic resin are still fairly new to me. The ones I used to see in the past didn’t appeal to me, but in recent months I seem to be warming up to some types of acrylic ‘looks’ or rather: there seem seem to be more and more acrylic fountain pens that appeal to my taste.

The first one I really liked was the (in my opinion ‘happy’ looking) FanMu Hawaii fountain pen. I bought this one on eBay. [2]It wasn’t expensive, but later I found out that I overpaid when I found it being offered much cheaper from another seller

The second acrylic fountain pen I really like is the Narwhal piston filler. The look of the acrylic Narwhal is rather fascinating and nice in a completely different way to the Hawaii: the acrylic resin has a beautiful colour and rather attractive swirl patterns in it.

The Narwhal box

My Narwhal adventure started with KT from Goldspot Pens contacting me and asking whether I want to try the Narwhal. I couldn’t resist (of course), but was torn between the yellow and the blue version. KT then sent me the yellow one.

Inside the box – notice the metal tool that comes with the pen

Nib choice and line width

Goldspot’s blog provides some background information about the Narwhal and the two guys behind the brand and the pens. Times have moved on since this blog post was published: the nib is now also available in medium (the fine nib is of course still available).

Regarding the writing experience: the nib is very smooth. There isn’t much line variation unless you press very hard, i.e. it is not a flexible nib even though you can create a wider line if you want to force it.

Size and colour comparison (top to bottom): Pilot Kakuno, Pelikan M200, Lamy Safari, Narwhal

I asked for the fine nib, because of my small handwriting. For my normal style of writing the nib is actually a bit too big: the nib’s line width is quite wide for a fine nib, certainly wider than lines from fine Kaweco or Lamy steel nibs. I take Pelikan out of this comparison as there is a lot of variation within the Pelikan brand and its nibs [3]in my experience much more than with Kaweco or Lamy nibs.

On Hobonichi paper – top: Narwhal, bottom: Super5 with the 0.7mm nib

My fine Narwhal nib lays down a 0.6mm wide line [4]scanned at 1200 dpi and measured in Photoshop, seen in the picture above, in blue. For comparison: the grey lines under the blue Narwhal lines are from a Super5 with the 0.7mm nib, which produces a (surprise, surprise) 0.7mm line. Please note that these are not standard 5mm squares but smaller Hobonichi squares (English version).

Looks, price and functionality

The pen itself looks great and certainly like a pen from a higher price band than the Narwhal’s $45 (~€38; ~£33). You even get a tool with your pen to help with disassembly, similar to what you get with a TWSBI.

The Narwhal nib

The gold band after the grip section looks very nice, especially without the cap. When the cap is on the pen the transition between the cap and the gold band looks a bit abrupt (check the photos earlier in this blog post) – most pen with bands seem to have the bands at the end of the caps rather than having none at the end of the cap but one ‘in the middle of the pen body’, i.e. after the grip section.

The modern looking cap with I call a ‘goldspot finial’.

The main attractions for me are, other than the smooth piston filling mechanism, the beautiful three-dimensional swirls that seem to defy the laws of physics because the seem to be much deeper and more three-dimensional than the narrow space between the outside of the pen and the ink reservoir should allow. Have look at them in the video below.

You can’t post the cap, at least not in a way that is comfortable and works well, but as I don’t post pens unless they have to be posted (OHTO Tasche, Cult Pens by Kaweco, …) I don’t mind at all.

Ink capacity

I had a look at the ink capacity of the Narwhal and I could fit in a bit more than 1 ml of ink. For comparison: a standard international ink cartridge can hold about 0.8 ml. There is actually more space in the Narwhal than 1 ml, but when you move the piston to the feed there is quite a gap, i.e. there is unexpelled air which is using space that consequently cannot be filled. When filling your fountain pen the traditional way, nib down, the air travels to the top and you still cannot expel the air to fill the ink chamber to capacity. You should be able to get more than 1.5 ml of ink into the pen, if you fill it with the nib pointing upwards, but you’d need some sort of travel inkwell that fits well.

The knob and piston filling mechanism

Conclusion

Overall this pen provides excellent value for money. There are not that many piston fillers in the same price range. The Narwhal is very well made and is also available in a choice of colours. I just wish the nib was also available in EF.


Goldspot provided the pen free of charge and KT patiently answered all questions I could think of. I did no receive any money for this review.

Price and exchange rates: March 2021.

References

References
1fountain pens with bodies made from acrylic resin
2It wasn’t expensive, but later I found out that I overpaid when I found it being offered much cheaper from another seller
3in my experience much more than with Kaweco or Lamy nibs
4scanned at 1200 dpi and measured in Photoshop

Hacking ink 2

Hacking ink with an x-ray machine… The story is two weeks old by now, but I thought I post it here in case you also find this fascinating.

Read more about it on the MIT web site.

(Image © MIT)

The image has been taken from the MITweb site. I believe that the use of this images falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.


All pencil and Kaweco 1

The 8008 All pencil

One of the indispensable pens in our kitchen is the Stabilo All pencil. It can write on almost any surface, so is suitable for labelling more or less whatever needs labelling in the kitchen: plastic tubs, bags, clips and more. When our current 8008 got lost we got a new one, or rather two: the graphite version (8008) and the colour pencil version (8046) which is not graphite based but more like a black coloured pencil.

One thing we noticed very soon is that, unlike our old version, the current version is now marked as being made in the Czech Republic. I assume it is made in Český Krumlov, Schwan-Stabilo’s factory that I mentioned in the past, the first time in a blog post about the EASYgraph.

Writing with the new version feels quite different. I hope the lost 8008 will turn up again so that I can compare them.

You can find a review of the 8008 on the From The Pen Cup Blog:

Kaweco

In other news: I noticed that Kaweco has a few new products, including the Perkeo in very unusual, matte looking pastel colours. Kaweco now also has ink bottles in a new square design and a new book. You can see the new products on Kaweco’s page for new products – I assume the page linked to will only show these products for a few weeks, so if you look at this blog post after Spring 2021 you probably won’t see them there.

The new Perkeo colours (Image © Kaweco)

There were also a few other, very nice products from Kaweco which don’t seem to be new, but which I haven’t noticed before – including a nice concrete pen holder. I couldn’t resist and ordered one, so will update you soon.


The Perkeo image has been taken from the Kaweco web site. I believe that the use of this images falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.


Savannah green and terra red 11

Today: a very exciting arrival: My Lamy Safari collection got company.

The savannah green Safari next to a similarly coloured Caran d’Ache

For several years I was hoping that Lamy would re-release their original Safari colours. I think this idea started to grow in me when Lamy re-released their Lime Green special edition from 2008 in 2011 (with some small differences).

My thought were along the lines of “If they can re-release lime green, why not savannah green, one of the two original colours…”

By the way, if you want to have a look at what is probably the most comprehensive list of special Safari editions on the web, head over to the Lamy Safari article on stationery.wiki.

There are many differences that make it easy to distinguish the original versions from the 2021 versions, so there isn’t much danger of this re-release causing too much confusion – instead it represents a homage to Lamy’s original colours.
I have been a Lamy Safari user since the mid-1980s, but I have to admit that I don’t remember at all what my first Safari colour was. I am however quite sure that in came in a box like the one pictured below (linked to from Flickr). The box looked very cool, so I kept model figures in it for many years.

Safari Box 1
This is an embedded Flickr image. Click to go to this image on Flickr.
Safari Box 2
This is an embedded Flickr image. Click to go to this image on Flickr.

The Pen Company, where I got the engraved Caran d’Ache from, is just about the get new stock of the 2021 Lamy Safari colours in. I bought the savannah green and terra red fountain pens from Write Here and the savannah green ballpoint pen and rollerball from CultPens. Somehow Write Here’s search function seems to have a problem, so I didn’t even realise they also carry the non-fountain pens as they didn’t show up in a search. When I checked again today some of them did now show up.

The Write Here Logo that they managed to emboss on the official Lamy packaging came as a surprise – a great idea and looks fantastic.

Savannah green is certainly one of my favourite colours in terms of look, but it’s not quite my absolute favourite Safari – that is the grey version (sometimes referred to as griso). I had two and sent one to Sean of Contrapuntalism fame, but unfortunately the postal service managed to damage it in transport. The one I kept is still in it’s packaging. Maybe I should unpack it one of these days. It’s just too good looking to stay unused.

What are your favourite colours and do you prefer the ‘matt’ or the glossy’ pens?

For Sale: Vintage Lamy Safari Griso fountainpen and rollerball set. NOS. selling for 100€ including ww tracked shipping! rare set! Email me at miss.thundercat (at) gmail.com if your're interested. #forsale #pensforsale #selling #fountainpen #fpn #fountain
This is an embedded Flickr image. Click to go to this image on Flickr.