Jim’s Bees (sketch)

Jim's bees

My good friend and colleague Jim is a beekeeper. Here are two of his hives. Jim makes them himself to a traditional design, from red cedar, which will be familiar to my fellow wood pencil fans.

You can find out more about Jim’s bees and, if you are in the UK, order a hive yourself, over at Jim’s website.

Tombow Mono 100 pencils, Clairefontaine GraF it sketchbook.

Custom ground Pelikan nibs

Pelikan custom ground nib review

I very much like my Pelikan M215. It seems there may be some quality control issues with the nibs but the fine one that I bought has always been very lovely.

In recent months, though, I’ve really fallen for stubs and italics. I think this is an inevitable consequence of discovering and enjoying the hundreds of beautiful inks there are out in the world. An good italic nib lets the ink sing to you as you write.

I was rummaging around the Pelikan Pens website, as I am sure most people tend to do whenever they have a spare moment, and stumbled across their nib grinding service. Ross (once interviewed on this very site) will grind any medium or broad Pelikan nib, stainless steel or gold, bought from them (with or without a pen attached to it) to a stub. Obviously I had to order one.

Pelikan custom ground nib under

It’s really wonderful. Smoother than the fine I had in the pen originally, nice and wet flowing, and full of stubby shady goodness.

This is quite a niche service, even by our standards, but if you are in the market for a new Pelikan pen or nib then it comes highly recommended. Ross grinds a lovely nib (he writes about his process here) and he and his team always provide fantastic service.

Pelikan custom ground nib handwritten review

I was able to buy this custom ground nib at a slight discount but was under no obligation to write a review or say anything nice. These are my own views.

Apollo Technical Pen tip

Apollo Technical Pen review

Apollo Technical Pen review

The Apollo Technical Pen is a metal barrelled pen designed to be used with a wide variety of refills, including the ever popular Hi-Tec-C. The body and cap are made from titanium and the nib and grip are made from steel.

Apollo Technical Pen full length

I backed this pen on Kickstarter back in December and the estimated delivery date was February. It arrived a week ago and many people still don’t have there pens at all.

This was also a pen that had a lot of publicity and a lot of hype.

These two factors – hype and tardiness – meant that I would, inevitably, be disappointed when I finally opened the box.

Apollo Technical Pen box

It is, after all, just a pen.

Apollo Technical Pen on table

There are quite a few customisation options. You can change the coloured ring and you can install a stylus tip onto the end of the barrel. There are three nibs of different diameters to enable different refills to be used. (Apollo call the little bits that you change to hold the refills in place nibs. I’m not sure that’s the best word for them but I’m going with it because I can’t think of anything better.) The refill is held firmly in place by a spring inside the barrel. It all works very well. I’ve tried the Pilot Hi-Tec-C refill that comes with the pen and a Pilot Juice 0.5mm refill which is the one I’ve decided to stick with for now. (See the Kickstarter page for a full list of compatible refills.)

Apollo Technical Pen deconstructed

Once I’d got used to the realisation that this pen wasn’t going to change my life forever I started to see that it is, in fact, actually quite good. All the various parts fit together perfectly with no wobbles or wiggles anywhere. The barrel is well weighted and balanced, the knurled grip is comfortable, the whole pen feels solid and reliable and reassuring.

Apollo Technical Pen tip

The cap pushes on to close and does so very firmly. In fact it can take a bit of effort to get it off again. It kind of posts but not very well. The clip is sturdy and clippy.

Apollo Technical Pen bits

It turns out that this is a most excellent pen. This last week I’ve used it more than any other pen-that-isn’t-a-fountain-pen and once or twice I’ve picked it up instead of a fountain pen. It is precision made and designed with care and it shows. In time the hype and the delay will fade and all that will be left is this very lovely pen. A pen that won’t change the world but does bring to it a touch of delight.

Apollo Technical Pen handwritten review