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Pen: Pelikan M200 (Translucent)

Colour: Amber

Nib: Reform 0.9 italic stub (brass)

Filler: Internal piston

Price: RM216.00

Dealer: KS Gill

Rumour has it that Pelikan has discontinued its line of M200 translucent pens. However, no one knows definitively if this is true. A quick look at the websites of major online pen dealers would seem to confirm that this rumour is true: Almost every online dealer labels these translucent beauties as “SOLD OUT”. However, they can still be easily found here in Malaysia – even in the department stores like Parkson Grand and bookshops like MPH. This leads me to think that Pelikan is actually still churning out these beauties. And if I’m right, my advice to you is to purchase as many of these babies as you can – before Pelikan actually discontinues them!

The M200 line of translucent pens comes in five colours – grey, amber, red, green and blue. However, the grey and the amber M200s appear to be more translucent than the other three. If translucency is what you are looking for, go for these two colours. The other three members of this line-up appear to be more opaque than they are translucent. However, their translucency does show up in bright lighting conditions.

Like most of the pens in my collection, the M200 is what most people would classify as a mid-sized pen. Capped, the M200 is 13.2 centimetres in length. Posted, it measures 15.1 centimetres. The cross-section diameter, taken at the barrel’s centre, measures 1.4 centimetres. This is not a big pen. However, I suspect for most people, this will be big enough. Personally, I find some difficulty in writing with this pen if the cap is unposted. However, with the cap posted, I have no issues at all with the M200.

Ink fill is courtesy of Pelikan’s superb piston filler system. Action is smooth and sure. Further, being a piston filler pen, you can be sure that your M200 will hold a ton of ink. What else needs to be said?

The nib that came with my amber M200 was a standard Pelikan gold-plated stainless steel nib with a medium nibstroke. Since my other translucent M200 (the red one) came with the same nib, I decided to swap the standard nib with a brass 0.9 stub nib made for Reform pens – just for variety. Though not as crisp as the lines made with a standard italic nib, writing produced by this stub-nib M200 displays that calligraphy-like look which is quite pleasing to the eye.

Despite being a stub nib, writing with this pen is unexpectedly smooth. However, it will take some getting used to. Once you get past that stage, things begin to get really rosy. Writing with a stub is a different but quite satisfying experience. I have a feeling that there’s no turning back for me. Chances are it’ll be just a question of time before I order a custom cursive italic from one of the American nibmeisters.

In conclusion, I would have to say that the M200 is one of my favourite pens: it represents value for money. The M200 gives you the biggest writing pleasure bang for your hard earned bucks. Granted, the M200 doesn’t have the bling factor that its bigger siblings, the Souveran series, has. But there is very little that the Souveran has over the humble M200. If you are primarily concerned with writing performance and don’t care much about having gold nibs and pretty fittings, the M200 is right up your alley.


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Pen: Sailor 1911 (mid-size)

Colour: Blue

Filler: Cartridge/Convertor

Nib: 18K gold (medium)

Price: RM550.00

Dealer: Pen Gallery

Sailors enjoy a sterling reputation for producing among the smoothest nibs on the planet. So, about two months ago, I went out and got myself a blue Sailor 1911M from Pen Gallery. Right off the bat, the Sailor looked the part. Streamlined and shiny, the classic torpedo-shaped pen had class written all over it. I could hardly wait to put it through its paces. All the way home, the 1911 urged me to touch and caress its silky body from right inside the box. It took quite a tremendous strength of will to resist its seduction.

Being the mid-sized model, the capped length of this Sailor is only 13.6 centimetres. With the cap posted, the length becomes 15.1 centimetres. The barrel’s girth is 1.3 centimetres. This is not a big pen. If you feel you need something bigger, then it would be better to opt for the standard sized 1911. However, the standard 1911 will set you back RM1,000. But if you have smallish hands, the mid-sized Sailor would be just right. In fact, it is slightly larger in size than the Pelikan M200.

Filling duties on the Sailor is undertaken by a cartridge/converter unit: you could use an ink cartridge, or you could slap on the converter and suck ink from a bottle. I tend to chuck the cartridge option aside because I have this thing about fountain pens: they must be filled using bottled ink. Some call this snobbery. Others call it eccentricity. Take your pick.

Apart from that, I’m not a big fan of cartridge converters because they hold only a limited amount of ink. But if you don’t need to carry around a lot of ink in your pen, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. But if you tend to write a lot, your Sailor may run out of ink before you actually run out of things to write. Be that as it may, the Sailor’s converter unit is one of the better examples I have ever seen. It looks sturdy (although quite small), has metal parts and provides a positive action when you twist it. What more could you ask for? Though the downside of converters is their limited ink capacity, I have to admit that cleaning and flushing converter pens are a lot easier than it is with their piston filler counterparts.

The Sailor, true to its reputation, performed flawlessly right out of the box – no fiddling with the nib was necessary. It laid down beautifully uniform wet lines throughout the writing exercise. No skipping, no starting problems and no inkflow issues. In short, the Sailor performed as advertised – and then some! After having pens that costs twice the price of the Sailor perform like dogs, I was ecstatic over the Sailor’s performance. I shouldn’t be surprised, really.

There is no denying that the Sailor writes very smoothly – maybe a little too smoothly. Writing with it feels almost like writing on glass! Except for the coarsest paper, the Sailor’s nib felt as if it was slip sliding all over the place, especially when writing at speed. I never thought I’d have any problems with nibs that were smooth – until I met the Sailor. I now know first-hand that having too much of a good thing can be bad thing. Of course, this is a purely subjective call on my part. There will be users who will be more than pleased by the Sailor’s super smoothness.

So, if you have small to mid-sized hands, like your nibs to be super-smooth, don’t mind a small ink capacity and appreciate classic good looks, look no further than the Sailor 1911M. Plonk down your RM550 (before discount, if any) and walk away, a happy camper.


Types of Nibs

Nibs come in two basic flavours: the ‘round nib’ and the ‘italic nib’. The plain vanilla round nib is by far the most common type of nib found on fountain pens today. The reason for this is that a round nib is easy to write with. It doesn’t matter whether it is a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line – writing experience is smooth in any direction. Not only are they easy to write with, round nibs also produce lines of uniform thickness in any direction. Since the average guy on the Putra LRT is likely to be able to use round nibs without any difficulty, fountain pen manufacturers naturally tend to use round nibs on the majority of pens that they produce.

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Italic nibs, on the other hand, do not produce lines of uniform thickness in every direction. Instead, they will produce thin horizontal lines while their vertical lines will be much thicker. This phenomenon is often referred to as ‘line variation’ and is the primary allure of italic nibs. Many fountain pen users prefer the calligraphic appearance of their handwriting that is a result of the line variation inherent in using italic nibs. But because of the way the italic nib is shaped, it is often more difficult (slower?) to write with an italic nib.

Round or Italic?

Perhaps the easiest way to tell whether a pen is fitted with a round or italic nib, is to look at the nib from the side. As the illustration shows, round nibs will have a small bulb at its tip. Italic nibs, on the other hand, will show a streamlined tip that tapers off almost into a point.

When viewed from the top, a round nib will also show the characteristic bulb at its tip. In the italic nib, however, the plan view of the nib will show a flattened tip with very sharp edges. This flattened tip may be either horizontal or diagonal. If the cut across the nib is horizontal, this is usually called a ‘stub nib’. If it is diagonal, it is either an ‘oblique italic’ or a ‘reverse oblique’ italic nib.

Do I Need/Want an Italic Nib

If you don’t mind uniform line thickness throughout your writing, stick to the easy-to-use round nib. Round nibs allow you to write faster, too. However, as you progress and try to improve your penmanship, I believe you will want to experiment with italics.

As the illustration shows, italic nibs will have two very sharp edges. These edges have a tendency to get caught in the paper to produce a scratchy feel when writing. Naturally, care and very light writing pressure is required when writing with these nibs. Writing speed will sacrificed when using italics. However, the lines produced will show crisp line definition and great line variation.

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But there is a happy medium between the round nib and the standard italic nib. This nib is known as the ‘cursive italic’ nib. In cursive italics, the sharp edges are ground slightly to produce a smoother writing point. Cursive italics write faster than the standard italic but will give you less line variation.

What about Oblique Italics?

Generally, there are only two kinds of people who will need oblique italics. The first are left-handers. Because of the way they write, left-handers will find that reverse oblique italics are more suited to the way thy write.

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Right-handers, however, will find the oblique italic more suitable if they tend to hold the pen slightly rotated in a counter-clockwise direction. In most cases, as stub nib with its edges slightly rounded (a type of cursive italic nib) do the job quite well.

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Summary

Round nibs allows fast writing but will only produce lines of uniform thickness.

Italics produce crisp writing and great line variation but will be slower to write with.

Many people believe that the happy medium lies in the cursive italic nib.

You may want to consider oblique nibs if you are either left-handed or if you tend to hold the pen with the nib slightly rotated in the counter-clockwise direction (in the case of right-handed people).


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Pen: Reform Calligraph 0.9

Nib: gold-plated 0.9 italic

Filler: internal piston

Colour: black

Price: RM50.00

Dealer: KS Gill

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I was toying around with the idea of getting a pen with an italic nib. However, I wasn’t quite sure if I’d enjoy the italic nib experience. Thus, I wasn’t too thrilled about the prospect of spending serious money on such a pen. Salvation came in the form of the Reform Calligraph 0.9 that I found on a casual visit to KS Gill.

First off, the pen itself was a rather austere affair; another plain-looking black-barreled pen. Nothing to shout about – simple and non-ostentatious. On closer inspection, I found that the clip was reminiscent of those found on Pelikans. This prompted me to ask Ranjit of KS Gill if the two companies were somehow related. He answered that although Reform is a German manufacturer, it was a distinct and separate entity. Furthermore, Pelikan is now a Malaysian-owned company and any resemblance between the two companies’ products is purely coincidental.

The next thing I noticed was that there were two breather-holes on the nib instead of just one. According to Ranjit, this was to accommodate the Reform’s massive ink capacity. Hmmm… But since an italic nib lays down a much broader line, it would have to generate a higher level of inkflow. So, the Reform will require two breather-holes to achieve the correct pressure within the pen, which in turn, ensures smooth writing.

The Reform Calligraph is almost featherlight. For some, this may lead to the perception that the Reform is a low quality product. But do not be misled by its lack of weight. When you have a bout of heavy duty writing ahead of you, you’ll immediately appreciate lightness in a pen. And this is one of the lightest pens I know that will deliver quality performance at this level.

I was quite pleased to find that the Reform came with an internal piston filling system á la Pelikan and Montblanc. However, my delight was somewhat dampened by the tightness of mechanism. Often, I wondered if, because of the abnormally greater force required to turn the knob, I had somehow broken the pen. I am glad to report that to date, no such thing has happened. OK, the action is not as smooth as I would like it to be: but I am not paying Pelikan or Montblanc prices for the Reform either. I guess, this is a trade-off many will be willing to accept.

All this is fine and good. But how does it write?

For those not used to italic nibs, the Reform (like any other italic nibbed pen) will take a certain amount of getting used to. Because of the way italic nibs (any italic nib) are shaped, upstrokes with the pen have a tendency to dig into the paper if you are particularly ham-fisted. Just remember you are writing with a fountain pen i.e. use only as little writing pressure as possible. Get used to this and you will find that the results can be quite spectacular. You may even occasionally find yourself asking, “Wow! did I just write that?”

Should you buy this pen? If, like me, you are thinking of messing about with an italic nib but are not willing to spend too much money on the experiment, then, by all means, get the pen. There are other alternatives ( like the Lamy Joy) but it will be hard to go wrong with the Reform.

Is it likely that you will be using this pen as your daily writer? Of course, this is possible. But I don’t think so.

Be that as it may, you may want to consider using this pen for your signatures, though. Everybody loves adding some flair to their signatures, right?




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