Nock Co Lookout open from side

Nock Co Lookout Pen Case Review

Nock Co Lookout pen case review

The Lookout is a three slot pen case available for $20 direct from Nock Co. It’s available in a range of groovy colours though, shockingly, no longer in this particular combination. (You can get the mandarin exterior or the mango interior but not with each other.)

Nock Co Lookout open from the top

This is a solid case that gives you confidence that your most precious pens will be kept safe. It’s made from thick nylon that’s been treated to be water resistant. It’s like a good study rucksack and is reassuringly padded, too. The stitching is fantastic and seems to be very strong. I’ve used this case daily since I got it (many months ago, via Kickstarter) and there isn’t even the slightest hint of fraying or undoing. The flap of the case folds over and tucks under the strap, keeping everything secure.

Nock Co Lookout side view closed

Most pens will fit in this case with ease. The slots are plenty wide enough to fit just about anything (but the padding keeps them snug). The case is 6 inches long. All my pens fit, with only my Twiss Marmalade, and the occasional mechanical pencil, getting close to the top. You can see in the pictures that the Kuru-Toga is about as long as you should go with this case.

Nock Co Lookout open from top

This is perhaps the most traditional of Nock Co’s offerings but none the worse for that. It’s extremely well made, excellent value and it keeps your pens safe. What more could you ask for?

Nock Co Lookout open from side

In case (no put intended) you’re interested, the three pens in here are: Lamy Logo fountain pen, Lamy Vista rollerball and Uni Kuru-Toga pencil.

Not Breaking the Bank

We do like to joke about how much money this pen obsession/interest/hobby costs us and, I can’t pretend otherwise, it has cost me a small fortune. It’s easy to lose perspective: you begin by sweating over spending £18 on a Kaweco Classic Sport (I mean, £18 on a pen) and before you know it you’re spending that on a bottle of ink and seriously trying to convince yourself that it’s perfectly okay to spend £350 on a Pelikan Streseman. (It’s way beyond my means but oh boy do I wish it wasn’t.)

This inflationary desire can end up driving people away, though. I know that some of the pens I review on here are beyond what many people can afford, just as many of the pens I read about on sites that I love, written by people that I admire, are way beyond what I can afford.

What got me absolutely hooked was listening to Brad talk to Myke on the Pen Addict podcast about the OHTO Graphic Liner. I bought one, for £1.50, and a whole new world opened up to me.

There is much delight to be had in finding and using a pen as good as the Graphic Liner. Then there’s Rhodia, who make some of the finest paper around and it is not expensive. Pilot gel pens are wonderful and very reasonably priced. Although not trivial purchases, Lamy, Kaweco, Faber-Castell and Pilot all make great fountain pens at prices within reach of most.

There is a whole world of writing goodness out there that everyone can enjoy without breaking the bank.

Now, maybe the kids can do without a holiday this year, and I can get that Streseman. . .

J Herbin Rouge Hematite ink review

J. Herbin Rouge Hematite 1670 Ink Review

J Herbin Rouge Hematite ink review

I completely misspelled this in the review! I’m on a roll with my bad spelling at the moment.

This is a bright jolly red that dries quickly. With an average kind of nib it’s hard to notice the gold sheen at all but with a big fat wet nib, or a dip pen, or a straw, perhaps, it really comes through and looks fabulous.

I found when I was cleaning out the pen I’d tested this in that the ink had stained the converter, so be careful what you use it with and don’t leave it in a pen too long. (I’d only had this ink in the pen a couple of weeks.)

Here I am doodling the Inkling.

Many thanks to the Fool With a Pen for sending me this sample.

You can find some more reviews of J. Herbin Rouge Hematite 1670 on Pennaquod.

J Herbin Rouge Hematite Inkling doodle

TWSBI Vac 700 uncapped

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen Review

TWSBI Vac 700 review

The TWSBI Vac 700 is a vacuum-filling fountain pen that costs about $65 in the USA and £55 in the UK. It’s available with nibs from extra-fine to broad plus 1.1mm and 1.5mm stubs. The one I’m reviewing has what is becoming my favourite kind of nib, a 1.1mm stub. All Vac 700s, like most TWSBIs, have transparent bodies, in this case clear, orange, smoke or blue.

TWSBI Vac 700 nib

Apparently TWSBI are discontinuing the Vac 700 but for now they’re still quite widely available so I wanted to get this review out while it was still possible to buy one. (It’s going to be replaced by a ‘mini’ version.) (Edit: Margaret from Goulet Pens left a comment, below, to say that the clear version is going to continue to be available.)

What is a vacuum-filling pen, you might ask? Brian Goulet has a great little video showing how it works. Basically, you unscrew the knob at the end of the pen and pull out the piston. Pushing it back in creates a vacuum in the barrel and so just as the piston is almost completely back inside the ink gets sucked in in one big gloop. It’s a lot of fun. Of course, as the vacuum is being created air is being pushed out. This has interesting consequences when you’re trying it in a completely full bottle of ink. I wouldn’t recommend that. Luckily no-one was home and I was able to clear up the mess before it was discovered.

TWSBI Vac 700 uncapped

Before I bought my own I’d heard that the Vac 700 was a very big pen. It’s actually about the same size as a TWSBI 540 (just a little longer, unposted) which is to say not exactly small but certainly no monster. It’s a comfortable length and it’s neither too heavy nor too light. It’s a good size for getting on with the business of writing.

TWSBI Vac 700 piston out ready to write

An interesting aspect of the filling mechanism is that when the piston is fully screwed back down it seals off the ink in the barrel. I would think this would make this pen ideal for taking on planes but it also means that no ink gets through to top up the feed. I thought my pen was broken because it kept drying out. It turns out you need to unscrew the piston just a little while writing. It’s designed this way and there’s a soft little click when you’ve pulled it out enough. It’s fine but the piston knob moves around a little bit when you’ve done that and that can be occasionally distracting.

TWSBI Vac 700 piston knob pulled out

The cap screws closed and pushes on to post. It posts quite well and doesn’t unduly unbalance the pen but it does make it very long. The clip works well and is very plain. To my eyes, it’s as if TWSBI had forgotten all about the clip until the very last minute and had to stick something on quick, off the shelf.

TWSBI Vac 700 closed

The nib is larger than the 540’s and looks fantastic. The nib on mine is smooth and wet and consistent. I now have three TWSBIs with 1.1mm stubs and they’re all wonderful. Definitely one of my favourite nibs.

TWSBI Vac 700 nib and shadow

The Vac 700 is one of those pens that expects the user to put some effort in. The filling system is possibly a little gimmicky but it’s fun and it holds approximately half a bucketful of ink. Regular readers will know how much I love to see ink sloshing about inside a pen and the Vac 700 is perfect for that. Having to unscrew the end during use isn’t great but if that means I can take this pen on holiday with me then that’s okay!

This pen is all about vacuum filling. It’s even in the name. If you put that to one side, though, you still have a great pen. It’s a good size and it comes with a wide range of nibs, all of which have a good reputation. If you like this style of clear pen and you want something a little different, I highly recommend you snap up a Vac 700 while you still can.

You can find some more reviews of the TWSBI Vac 700 on Pennaquod.

Note: Reading around various reviews it looks as if the earliest versions of this pen had some issues with the feed, which led to it having a poor reputation. I think those issues were soon sorted out and certainly my pen has had no problems at all.

TWSBI Vac 700 handwritten review