Blue boat featured

Blue Boat in Weymouth Harbour (picture)

Blue boat

I bought some Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils a little while ago and tried them out properly for the first time with this picture. They really pop. I used my Platinum Carbon Pen (with Carbon Ink) for the lines and Winsor and Newton Black Indian ink watered down for the wash.

Blue boat with pencils

Parker 45 Harlequin capped

Parker 45 Harlequin Quick Look

Parker 45 Harlequin capped

In an article asking why vintage pens aren’t more popular, Jonathon Deans suggested the Parker 45 might be a good starter pen. I agree: they’re good value and easily found on eBay, they’re simply made and therefore reliable, and they use Parker’s cartridges and converters, still available to buy new.

I have three and wrote about two of them a while ago. This is a quick look at my latest acquisition, the gorgeous Harlequin model.

According to the excellent, the Harlequin was introduced in the 1970s but was soon discontinued due to difficulties with production. There are two versions of this steel model, one with a circlet pattern and one, like this, with a shield pattern, and there are also rarer versions in different colours.

Parker 45 Harlequin posted

This pattern is quite special and the effect is gorgeous. The barrel seems alive when you twirl it and it makes what is, inside, a fairly ordinary steel-nibbed cartridge/converter pen, seem rather luxurious.

There’s something to be said for that filling mechanism, though. It’s a simple and therefore pretty robust system and Parker still use the same cartridges so you can easily pick up new cartridges or converters. It’s substantially reduced the risk involved in purchasing a second-hand pen.

Parker 45 Harlequin undone

There is a risk with the nib, though. The medium nib on my pen needed a little smoothing when it arrived but that’s actually nothing to be scared of and it nows writes beautifully.

Parker 45 Harlequin nib

The clip is a little weak, a common problem with this model in particular.

I’d wanted a Harlequin for quite a while but they can sometimes be rather expensive. This one wasn’t, it cost little more than a Lamy Safari, and it’s a really lovely pen. I can highly recommend the Parker 45, in whichever variety you like best.

Parker 45 Harlequin handwritten review

OHTO Rook uncapped

OHTO Rook Fountain Pen Review

OHTO Rook uncapped

OHTO make the pen that got me into all this in the first place and some decent mechanical pencils, too. Their fountain pens, though, have a mixed reputation.

I was able to get this pen at a discount thanks to Cult Pens’ support of the site. These are my own honest opinions.

Price: £9 (UK) $16.50 (USA)
Nib options: steel, fine only
Barrel options: silver and orange, silver and black, black and green
Filling system: standard international short cartridges
Size: 10.3cm diameter; 9.3cm capped, 14.2cm posted, 8.5cm unposted
Weight: 11g

Even by pocket pen standards, the OHTO Rook is a tiny pen. Posting the long cap makes it a comfortable length, though. The best pocket pens are small when capped but usable when posted and thanks to the long cap, the Rook gets this right. You won’t be writing the next War and Peace with it but it’s absolutely fine for taking notes.

OHTO Rook in hand

I’m not overly keen on clips on pocket pens but the small clip on this seems strong and clippy.

OHTO Rook capped

The metal barrel looks a little different to your average pen and so you will either love it or hate it. This is a good thing: I’d like to see more manufacturers taking risks with designs, particularly at this end of the price spectrum. There are a range of colours available if orange, somehow, isn’t your thing. The overall effect is of a modern youthful pen. (This is about the opposite of the overall effect of me.)

You can fit a short international cartridge in here so you have a good range of inks available even though it’s too small for a converter.

OHTO Rook undone

OHTO only provide this pen with a medium nib. I always think it shows a lack of confidence in a pen if you can only get it with a medium nib. The manufacturer isn’t expecting it to be popular enough to justify a wider range. That’s how it feels, anyway. You’d think, though, that if OHTO were only going for one nib they’d make sure it was a good one. Sadly the nib on this is quite rough. It has good flow and I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s scratchy but it’s definitely not smooth. There are plenty of pens at this price that get the nib right but this isn’t one of them and it lets the whole pen down.

OHTO Rook nib

The OHTO is a fun looking pen that has a very functional pocket-sized barrel. It’s small but lengthens to a decent size to write with. Unfortunately the nib is quite unpleasant to use, taking all the fun away.

OHTO Rook posted


Fun design
Small when capped, reasonable length when posted


Very poor nib

OHTO Rook handwritten review

Faber-Castell Ecco tip

Faber-Castell Ecco Pigment Drawing Pen Review

Faber-Castell Ecco review

Faber-Castell is better known for the Pitt drawing pen but if you look hard enough you can find this alternative: the Ecco Pigment Liner.

I was able to get this pen at a discount thanks to Cult Pens’ support of the site. These are my own honest opinions.

Price: £2.80 (UK)
Tip size options: 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8mm
Barrel options: beige plastic
Ink type: black pigment – waterproof and lightfast

The 0.1mm tip on the pen I tried was great. No clickiness at all as it moved about the paper and a very consistent line both in terms of ink flow and line width. It keeps going and doesn’t dry out.

Faber-Castell Ecco tip

The lightfast and waterproof ink is good and black and dries quickly.

Faber-Castell Ecco writing bits

The grip is slightly contoured and is ridged. It’s comfortable to hold and won’t slip.

The cap clicks to close and to post and posts securely. The clip has a bit of interest to the shape and is good and strong.

Faber-Castell Ecco cap

The tip size is indicated on the end of the cap as well as around the top of the barrel. There is a lot of writing on the side of the barrel but the overall shape and colour makes for a good looking pen.

The Ecco looks good, comes in a decent range of tip sizes and is great to draw with. It’s much better than the Pitt. Recommended.

Faber-Castell Ecco posted


Good tip – good flow, consistent line, not clicky
Good grip
Decent clip
Comfortable to hold
Good black ink



Namisu Nova review

Namisu Nova Fountain Pen Review

Namisu Nova review

The Namisu Nova was born of a successful Kickstarter and is now available to buy. Namisu are a British company and that, sadly, is rare when it comes to fountain pens, so I’ve been particularly interested in seeing what they’re doing.

The Nova is Namisu’s second pen. It’s available with several barrel and nib options. I originally bought the black aluminium barrel with a broad steel nib but later bought a medium titanium nib, which is the one you can see in the pictures.

Namisu Nova being pretty

Price: £28 (aluminium barrel, steel nib); £55 (titanium barrel, steel nib)
Nib options: steel in extra-fine, medium, broad or black medium; titanium (add £23) in extra-fine or medium
Barrel options: black or grey aluminium; titanium
Filling system: standard international cartridge/converter
Size: 13.9cm capped, 12.8cm uncapped; 15.5cm diameter
Weight: 29g (aluminium); 45g (titanium)

The Nova is a simple shape and this is okay because it’s stunning. There’s nothing more to say: just look at it. An absolutely classic design.

Namisu Nova in hand

Not only does it look great, it’s a very comfortable shape in the hand. The section is quite long so the threads, which are thick anyway, are well out of the way of your fingers. It’s a reasonable length, perhaps a little short for big hands, but nothing serious. Although it’s not designed to be posted, it’s possible to do so and the pen remains comfortable and well balanced if you do.

Namisu Nova posted

The pen doesn’t come with a clip. It’s also, as a consequence of its shape and finish, quite slippery. It’s a menace to keep in a pen case as it will slide out of it at every opportunity. A clip would spoil the clean looks of this pen and I’m glad it doesn’t have one but it is quite amazing how keen it is on escaping.

Namisu Nova nib

You can use standard international cartridges and converters, which gives a lot of options.

Namisu Nova in pieces

The Nova uses Bock nibs (as used by Kaweco, amongst others). The broad steel nib I bought with the pen originally is smooth and (now) has good flow unless you use it on highly coated paper (like Clairefontaine) when you get the occasional hard start. I liked the pen so much I thought I’d treat it (and myself) to a titanium nib. It was very disappointing because it could barely finish a letter before drying up. I sent it back to Namisu who replaced it quickly and painlessly. The new nib is a lot of fun: soft and springy, nice and wet and very well behaved. As you can see in the pictures, it looks great too.

Namisu Nova feed

This pen looks fantastic and with a steel nib it’s incredibly good value and a great writing experience. A titanium nib is, I think, a luxury but it is certainly a step up for what is already an exceptional pen.


Beautiful design
Steel nib is great
Very comfortable in the hand
Uses standard cartridges/converters
Amazing value


Slippy slidey barrel

Namisu Nova handwritten review