Kaweco


Repairs & Alterations – All On Liberal Terms 2


The weather was really nice this weekend and since there was something we had to do in Manchester anyway we decided to spend the afternoon in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Fred Aldous, mentioned in the past, is also located in the Northern Quarter.


One of the shops I discovered and I haven’t been to before is the Dedstock General Store. It’s a gem of a store selling a nice choice of wares for it’s size, including stationery, items for shaving (including Mühle blades), enamel items and other things.


The owner was just working on a sewing machine. He said he was mending things, but it looked like a much bigger operation (the word upcycling and hundred year old garments spring to mind).


In terms of stationery there were Dux and Gedess sharpeners, Kaweco and Mindori pens and accessories, the Blackwing remake and Calepino notebooks. Items priced above £50 were stored behind the counter (no photo, sorry).

Repairs & Alterations – All On Liberal Terms

I’m happy I came across this unusual store and will visit again next time I’m in the Northern Quarter.


Visiting Kaweco in Nuremberg 4

End of last year I had the opportunity to get a tour of Kaweco’s premises in Nuremberg, lead by none other than Sebastian Gutberlet himself. He is the son of Michael Gutberlet – the man who brought Kaweco back in the 1990s.

Sebastian Gutberlet

Kaweco did offer a tour of their premises at the time the Insights X trade fair was on, but back then I didn’t have the time to take this offer up.

The museum contains many pens from Kaweco’s past

 

..as well as more modern items from Kaweco’s recent history

 

The offices and the factory are actually just next to Nuremberg’s convention centre. They will soon house a shop and a museum, too.

Old Kaweco pens in the museum

 

Old machines in the museum

As you might know, Kaweco used to be based in Heidelberg (where Lamy is), but since Michael Gutberlet brought it back to life in the 1990s it is based in Nuremberg (where Staedtler and many other stationery manufacturers are).

..and old materials that were used to make pens

 

Sebastian demonstrating how the old machines worked

The factory visit was actually supposed to take place a few days earlier, but illness meant that our family’s trip to Germany was delayed. Luckily we were able to rebook the ferry. Kaweco was happy to accommodate, but as the tour now took place on 23rd December, with December 24th being kind of the most important Christmas day around here, there were no workers in the factory assembling pens and I couldn’t see (or film) the machines in action.

No workers that day, so I didn’t see the machines being used by professionals

Parts for assembling pens

That was a shame, I would have loved to see how fast workers are assembling Kaweco pens. At least I’ve seen this type of machine in action before ..when Kaweco let visitors assemble their own pens at Insights X.

Sebastian Gutberlet wasn’t the only Sebastian in the room….

In case you wonder: the plastic parts for the pens aren’t made at this location. They are designed by Kaweco but outsourced as you’d need a lot of expenditure for machines etc if you’d want to make all the parts yourself. The parts are however all coming back to Nuremberg to be assembled here. Depending on how big the batch or order is the pens can also be engraved here.

More vintage pens from the museum

 

Except housing the machines these premises also include the warehouse, which was busy because annual stocktaking was just taking place.

Hmm, the shelves must be full of stationery goodies

 

Even more goodies. Can I stay overnight?

Even more goodies. Can I stay overnight?

Since we were in Nuremberg anyway and it was just before Christmas we used to opportunity to visit Nuremberg’s Christmas market, probably the most famous one in Germany. By the way, Sebastian’s Ewok hat in the following picture from Nuremberg’s Christmas market that day was handmade by Shangching from East…West…Everywhere.

At Nuremberg's Christmas market

At Nuremberg’s Christmas market

We had a great day visiting Kaweco and Nuremberg. I hope I will have a chance to go back there once the museum and shop are officially open.


Kaweco’s Royal Blue and other blues

When Scribble offered me to send some Kaweco inks for testing I was quite excited.

My wife and I have, between us, a few Kaweco fountain pens and ink cartridges and in 2012 it got even ‘worse’ when Cultpens had an offer where you could get a free Kaweco Twist and Out Cartridge Dispenser, that offer involved buying even more cartridges.

..but  recently I started assuming that the Kaweco inks have some special properties, based this sentence Cultpens had in their description of Kaweco inks:

The colours and character of these inks is very reminiscent of the long-discontinued rotring inks.

..so Scribble’s offer was very much appreciated.

Scribble's sample and my other blues

Scribble’s sample and my other blues

Well, Cultpens has now removed this sentence from their web site, but nevertheless, I was intrigued. What are those colours and characteristics? They’d have to be somehow special to be worth mentioning. I wouldn’t be surprised if neither Rotring nor Kaweco make/made their own inks, so maybe all of these inks are made by a third party, probably a German company, so are these inks maybe even identical?

Luckily I still had some NOS Rotring ink (even unopened) from many years ago. These are pretty hard to come by these days. I only found one on eBay USA and one on eBay in Europe.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Kaweco and Rotring ink, so the whole thing was more exploratory and I didn’t have any hypotheses, mainly because I wasn’t even sure what Rotring’s magic ink properties are supposed to be.

To find out more I thought I compare the Kaweco and the Rotring blue to some other blues. Unfortunately I didn’t have what I would think of as the standard blue, Pelikan’s royal blue, at home. I also didn’t have Lamy’s blue. I guess after writing with these for more than a decade when I was in school I wanted to try some other inks and never stocked up one them again.

For comparison, additional to the Kaweco and Rotring, I picked Diamine’s Blue Velvet (one of the 150 years anniversary ink) and Cartier Blue (or should that be must de Cartier, as written on the ink bottle?).

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

 

Well, I wasn’t disappointed, but as I mentioned, I didn’t have any expectations either. The Kaweco Royal Blue is definitely a different ink than the Rotring Brillant Blue, also called Ultramarine. To be honest, there are so many languages on the box, I am not sure whether Ultramarine is supposed to be the English name for this ink or the ink in another language, but I have seen people call this ink Ultramarine on the web, so it might help identifying this ink.

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

The Kaweco Blue is stronger and less red than the Rotring Brillant Blue. Have a look.

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

The Rotring is the least blue and most red ink in this comparison. It is however still a proper blue ink.

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

The Diamine Blue Velvet is strong and dark and certainly happier and less serious than the Kaweco (oh my, this is getting very subjective now).

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

The Cartier Blue is probably the most reserved and modest of the bunch.

Well – I am still not clear about these properties of the Rotring and the Kaweco that Cultpens hinted at without going into any details.

Maybe some water can help to solve the mystery?

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

No. I’m still not any closer to finding out what these properties are. Well, it doesn’t matter though. They are all nice blues. I wonder which one I should try next in a fountain pen…

By the way, I used a dip pen with a Brause No 361 nib (Shangching calls this nib the blue pumpkin), to make it easier to control ink cross contamination. This results in much more ink being out on the paper than with your average fountain pen.


Kaweco at Insights X 2016 3

Kaweco stand

Kaweco’s stand was the stand most visitors would see first as it was just next to the entrance to the first hall.

They showed many of their new products. I particularly liked the red fountain pen. It is a red colour that feels like a red that has been revived from Kaweco’s past, but when I asked about this I was told that it is a new colour they came up with recently.

Kaweco new pens

 

Kaweco also introduced new packaging in the form of a big plastic screw (you can see it in the back on the left, in the photo above).

The employee at the stand also told me that black is their ‘best colour, so they introduced black as part of their ICE Sport series (that’s the series of Sport pens that are half transparent)

Ink-wise they showed their new colours Smokey Grey and Sunrise Orange.

The new nib holder is at the bottom

The new nib holder is at the bottom

 

Kaweco’s new aluminium dip pen / nib holder was also being presented at their stand. There is only one nib for now, but more will be available in the future.

What I found most exciting: They brought all the tools needed to assemble their fountain pens. I was lucky enough to have witnessed how these tools are being used and made a little video. The pen being assembled is a fountain pen that is a bit darker than the new Macciato colour. This Caramel colour is limited to 300 pieces.

The last item I want to show is their new pen holder in the shape of a German Shepard, Kaweco’s heraldic animal. The pen is made from artificial stone. I have used Pelikan’s pen holder in the shape of a pelican, but it is made of some sort of ceramic and will scratch the plastic body of Pelikan pens. From the looks of it I think the problem with scratches shouldn’t be as bad with Kaweco’s pen holder, but I haven’t really tried it out.

Kaweco German Shepard pen holder

I was happy to hear that all of these items will be available in the UK.


You can find more information about Kaweco’s new products on their web site.

I found more information about the Kaweco pen holder at mostwanted-pens.com.

 


A Prototype! The Kaweco AL Sport Stonewashed Pencil 5

Kaweco AL Sport stonewashed pencil prototype

Kaweco’s AL Sport stonewashed series

Having used Kaweco’s AL Sport stonewashed fountain pen since 2014 I thought that a stonewashed pencil might look rather nice, too. Unfortunately, the ‘Stonewashed series’ only includes a fountain pen, a ballpen (that the official name) and a rollerball – no mechanical pencil (or push pencil, the name used by Kaweco).

Kaweco AL Sport stonewashed pencil prototype

No pencil

The ballpen and the push pencil look very similar, so I thought it might be possible to simply use the AL Sport pencil mechanism in the ballpen body, but that would mean having to buy the ballpen even though I wouldn’t use it – and it’s just guesswork that the parts would fit, so earlier this year, in February, I contacted Michael Gutberlet from Kaweco asking whether there is or will be a AL Sport stonewashed pencil. I had his contact details from an earlier email exchange in 2013, when Michael Marzani from Just Another Pen and I were discussing the brass body of the Kaweco Liliput he reviewed in his blog. As part of the discussion Michael Marzani contacted Michael Gurberlet, who was providing information about the brass he used for this pen.

Great balance: The centre of gravity is slightly towards the front

Great balance: The centre of gravity is slightly towards the front

 

A prototype

To my surprise Michael Gutberlet then made a Prototype1 for me. I got the impression that the main issue when creating this pen  was the push button, but since I don’t have an AL Sport ballpen I can’t really comment how much the ballpen and the pencil’s push button differ. I assume the top looks the same, but the button is different, probably because the pencil push button is held by the lead pipe, but the ballpen push button is on the click mechanism – but this is pure speculation. Michael Gutberlet seems to be very hands-on with the pens he creates, so as far as I know he made this prototype himself. He also finishes each Lilliput Fireblue fountain pen individually. Massdrop is currently selling them for $139.

In March 2016, when the pencil was ready, I was contacted by Sabine Götz – and she called it a prototype – how exciting! The word prototype hadn’t been mentioned before, so that was a very exciting moment. I guess this makes this pencil a one of a kind.

I also got a bill. The pencil was a bit more expensive than the AL Sport stonewashed fountain pen I bought a few years ago, but that was more down to the fact that I found a shop that sold it for a good price. I guess what I paid for the pencil is similar to what the official retail price for an AL Sport stonewashed pencil would be.

Kaweco AL Sport stonewashed pencil prototype

The pencil

Shape and lead

The pencil itself is quite stubby, but all Kaweco Sport push pencils are, so I knew what I was getting. Nevertheless, I think the stubbiness makes the pencil less elegant than the fountain pen version. The pencil takes 0.7 mm leads. According to the mini manual that came with the pen there seem to be versions of the Sport pencil in 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 0.9 mm and 2 mm, but I don’t think I ever saw the Sport in 0.5 mm.

Pencil and fountain pen

Pencil and fountain pen

Clip

I ordered a clip for the pencil so that I can transport it easily. Pen Heaven had the best price I could find in the UK, £1.99 (~$2.90; €2.50), including postage. I do use the pen with the clip, but that does make rotating the pen (and using the lead up from all sides) more difficult.

Kaweco AL Sport stonewashed pencil prototype

Material

The pen itself feels solid and feels like it’s mainly made from metals (mainly aluminium) or metal alloys (the mechanism?), but the lead pipe is made of clear, slightly flexible plastic. The push button gets stuck on this pipe (friction fit). There is no eraser in this pencil.

Kaweco AL Sport stonewashed pencil prototype

The plastic pipe for the leads

Lead

According to the manual you can store two leads in the pipe. You might think that, as with mechanical pencils from many decades ago, you can store leads in the space between the pipe and the body, but you would only be able to store leads with a length of about 2 cm there, so this space is more or less ‘wasted’.

By the way, my wife was very impressed by the lead the pencil came with. Her comments were: ‘creamy and buttery, soft, but does not smudge’. That is high praise coming from her as she doesn’t like leads that smudge …so the Lamy Scribble’s original leads had to go. Her dislike for smudgy leads goes so far that she is using H leads in a pencil that is used for an Atoma notebook (H is actually great with Atoma’s paper).

Pencil and fountain pen

Pencil and fountain pen

Numbers

A quick look at the dimensions of the pen:

It is hexagonal and has a diameter of 13 mm (just over half an inch) – much wider than most mechanical and wood cased pencil. For comparison: the current Noris has a diameter of 6.8 mm. The pens length is 10.8 cm and it has a weight of 29 g (just over one ounce).

This blog post has been brought to you by Kryten and the Jupiter Mining Corporation: If you don't gosub a programme loop you never get a subroutine

This blog post has been brought to you by Kryten and the Jupiter Mining Corporation – Kryten’s wide words: If you don’t gosub a programme loop you never get a subroutine

Daily use and overall verdict

I have used this pencil for a while now, together with the AL Sport stonewashed fountain pen. Together they are such a nice pair. I have to say that I always preferred using the pencil, despite its stubiness. I find the pencil’s look much less attractive than the stonewashed fountain pen’s elegance, but because it is instantly ready it was my pen of choice – there is no cap that needs to be taken off and posted first.

Overall this is a great pencil, even though I would prefer a slimmer, longer version. I wonder whether this stonewashed pencil (not my imaginary slimmer, longer version) will be available in shops in the future. I guess the original problem was that different pen parts need ‘stonewashing’ for different lengths of time, but now that there is a prototype (and a recipe how long its parts need ‘stonewashing’) it should be easier to make more stonewashed pencils.

Regarding the stonewashing: I have to add that my fountain pen has a better stonewashed effect, but this might be caused by the different shape of the parts (or, less likely, the different paint). The question now is whether Kaweco sells enough pencils to think it’s worth offering an AL Sport stonewashed pencil.

There's an old android saying which has particular relevance here: If you don't gosub a programme loop you never get a subroutine (Kryten/Red Dwarf)

Magnified from the previous photo: The AL Sport in action


Price: March / April 2016

Exchange rates: May 2016

I would like to thank Michael Gutberlet for making this prototype for me.

Dries has a review of the RAW version of this pencil.

The Massdrop link contains a friend invitation code.

  1. A real prototype 8^) not like this year’s April Fools Day Prototype. Kaweco and Prototype, that reminds me of SBRE Brown’s blog post and video about the Kaweco Ranger, which, as far as I know, is not a prototype, but one of the first models released after Kaweco became Gutberlet owned. Unless of course the reviewed set was a prototype for the Ranger series that was available in the 1990s. []