August 22, 2013

Fountain Pen! Sailor Professional Gear (Matte Black)

Several months ago I wrote a three-part saga that eventually led to the acquisition of the most buttery smooth, awesome-laden writing instrument in my collection: the Sailor Professional Gear (matte black body with silver trim; 21 karat gold, two-tone rhodium plated nib; medium size). The backstory can be found here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

The backstory is nice, but what about the pen itself? First of all, the Japanese are really into the presentation aspects of their products. The pen arrived in a hermetically sealed plastic bag, which was secured within a hinged box (along with a couple of black ink cartridges, an ink converter, and unintelligible instructions written in Japanese).

Note that the hinged box shown in the picture was wrapped in tissue paper and surrounded by a nice cardboard box. It really made for a dramatic unboxing experience, and the tissue paper was effective at wiping away the tears of joy. Seriously; just look at the thing:

The silver colored trim really works with the flat black color of the body. It doesn't look too aristocratic, and it doesn't look cheesy or old-fashioned to my eyes. The thick silver band is inscribed with "Sailor Japan Founded 1911" (it's a subtle detail that is easy to miss). The clip and barrel rings are also silver colored. The body and cap are made of resin, and I like the matte black finish because it reminds me of a rat rod and it does a good job at hiding fingerprints. I'm very happy with my decision to get this finish rather than the standard "gloss" black.

The next picture shows Sailor's standard anchor logo atop the cap. The emblem is gold/brass colored, which goes against the silver trimmed theme of the pen. It's a minor aspect that doesn't really bother me (too much).

Sailor is well known for its nibs, and the reputation is deserving. The bi-colored nib is really nice to look at, and it writes as good as it looks. The gold highlights and design details on the nib are very impressive, too. The nib says "H-M" on it, and I assume that stands for "Hello Mate" or "Happy Monday" (LOL, some experts think it means "Hard Medium"). See for yourself here:

The build quality and fit and finish of this pen are top notch. It is not a very heavy pen (it weighs about 23.3 grams with the cap on and the ink cartridge almost full), yet it feels sturdy and solid in the hand. There is a thin o-ring seal between the body and the nib section to provide a stable seal after filling the converter or replacing the cartridge. There is also some type of compliant seal inside of the cap; I can feel something compressing when I twist the cap onto the body. I assume this keeps the nib from drying out.

The Pro Gear may be a little short for some people to use unposted. Although I usually post the cap, it's totally comfortable and easy to use unposted. Here's a nice picture of the pen uncapped, with absolutely no scale or object for use as a sizing reference. Sorry.

Writing with the Pro Gear is a treat. The nib is noticeably smoother than most if not all of my other fountain pens, the medium size is nearly perfect for me, it always starts right up, and it hasn't skipped or stopped writing on me yet. Maybe I got lucky, but this pen worked perfectly out of the box, and I wouldn't change anything about the nib.

I'll end this post with a writing sample on Rhodia paper. It was written using the black ink cartridge that came with the pen (Sailor's black ink is a nice, deep, and uniform black). I'm currently using the converter (by the way, the converter is pretty handsome too . . . the silver trim on the converter blends well with the silver accents on the pen) filled with Diamine Eclipse ink. The Diamine ink also performs very well with this pen.

I'm glad that my torturous pre-purchase routines and thought processes resulted in a stellar writing instrument and zero buyer's remorse. I can highly recommend this pen without any reservations. Go get one!

August 15, 2013

The Daily Rant: Cheap Umbrellas

I haven't written much lately because I'm buried at work and am busy with summer vacation activities. Speaking of which, I recently returned from a vacation in a rainy climate. Rain is really annoying when you are not fully prepared for it, i.e., all you have (for your family to share) is a cheap and already-broken portable umbrella. You know, the type that bends, breaks, and tears immediately after purchase. We had a pink one that was an embarrassment. It really sucked.

As luck would have it, crappy, fragile, cheap, and unruly umbrellas are readily available in wet tourist spots and rain forest souvenir shops. We copped a pair of them and were feeling good about ourselves. For a very short while. Forty minutes to be exact. That is how long it took for Cheap Umbrella 1 to break.

Our original pink nightmare was tossed before Cheap Umbrella 1 failed, leaving us with only Cheap Umbrella 2 for protection. Thankfully, that one held up until our last rain-soaked day. Unfortunately, my kid left Cheap Umbrella 2 in the hotel lobby, and it was long gone before we realized it. So . . . we returned home umbrellaless.

This is how my quest for a new "high quality" umbrella began. I spent a fair amount of time researching a number of offerings, such as the various models from Shedrain, the stylistic and spendy options from Davek, the high tech innovations from Blunt, etc. Truth be told, I feel that any umbrella, regardless of cost, style, and technology, will eventually break, get lost, or fail. I haven't pulled the trigger on anything just yet, and I'm not sure if I will. Are there are any umbrella experts reading this post? If so, I welcome your suggestions!

August 1, 2013

Baoer 388 Fountain Pen

I was on a family vacation a few months ago and, as luck would have it, there was a fountain pen proprietor relatively close to where we were staying. I decided to go "souvenir" shopping with my son, and for some odd reason my Garmin navigation system guided me right to the pen shop's doorstep.

I was able to resist the urge to buy another pen for myself, but I caved when my son asked me to buy him something as a souvenir. I gave him an allowance of only ten bucks and was surprised when he actually found a decent fountain pen for only nine dollars:

Baoer 388
The pen looks somewhat pleasing to the eye, and it has a body that is made of metal. The pen was not offered in different nib sizes, so I assume that it has a medium nib on it. It came with a converter, and it accepts standard international ink cartridges. The pen feels pretty solid in the hand, and it weighed in at about 25.2 grams with the converter inked up.

The nib performs in a satisfactory manner. It's not the best nib I've written with, but it's certainly not the worst. It has decent flow and writes smoothly most of the time. I have experienced some skipping incidents, but nothing out of the ordinary for a cheap pen.

My kid likes the converter and the gold tinted nib of the Baoer 388. I think its a great pen for him because I won't lose any sleep if he breaks it, trades it for a Pokémon card, or loses it. That said, he may be over this pen already because I recently overheard him saying: "I wish I had a GOOD fountain pen, like one of yours."

Anyhow, my takeaway is this: the Baoer 388 is a decent choice for a beginner fountain pen. It's a "real" fountain pen with a converter, and it's compatible with standard ink cartridges, which makes it convenient. I would still recommend the Pilot 78G as a first option (I think the 78G writes better), but the Baoer 388 is a nice alternative.