Fountain pen reviews.

We found ourselves in the middle of the electronic communications age. For many, communication via some electronic means is the only way to reach loved ones, business contacts or as in the case of the thousands of special interest blogs, like minded individuals.

The daily checking of the mailbox for that special letter, has been replaced by instant or real time, online communications. The careful planning, wording and writing of that special letter, is now done via a keyboard and instantly corrected with your spell checker. These modern advances are not all bad, and I am not proposing that the old ways were better. We did forgot how to spell, how to think before you write so as not to make mistakes that can only be corrected by rewriting the whole letter (if you don’t want to draw a line through your mistake), how to train your handwriting and to practice to develop this skill so you can be proud of it.

No wonder then that many skeptics regards writing instruments, especially something so specialized as a fountain pen, as belonging to a forgotten era. Cheap biros, or the old favourite, a pencil, can still have a place in the office for quickly jotting down notes or ideas to be formulated later on the computer.

Yet, the production of fountain pens is at an all time high. Numerous factories all over the world produce pens ranging from a couple of dollars, to hundreds- if not thousands of dollars each.

How can we explain this? I guess every fountain pen user or collector will have their own explanation. The reasons would eventually fill many pages. Some of my special reasons are pride of ownership, pleasure of using, the personal touch these delicate instruments adds to every line you write, the different writing experience that can be had with each, and many more. Just like many nearly forgotten or threatened with extinction crafts, such as blacksmithing, spinning and weaving, lace making, leatherworking, glassblowing, hand knitting, and many, many more, the ability to write neatly, controlled, readable, faultless, is another art that is facing extinction.

Try to get hold of some old handwritten manuscripts and look at the standard of penmanship exhibited by the writers. If writing by hand was your only means of communicating your thoughts to someone far away, you have to make sure that your writing is not going to be prone to misunderstanding. Words that are totally illegible, a handwriting that puts strain on your reader in order to decipher your thoughts and a writing instrument that spoils your work with poor performance, would not have been tolerated.

As is the case with all other crafts, the more you practice something, the better you become at it. A fountain pen that fits your hand, your writing style and, your aesthetic requirements, invites you to write more, to hone your skills and develop your own penmanship. For this, the best writing instrument, is still a fountain pen.

Available in a wide variety of nib sizes, pen sizes and weights, inks, and a writing experience that can be controlled much better than roller ball or biro pens, the fountain pen is unbeatable. Add to this colour and aesthetics and you can really have a field day in deciding which pen (pens…) you like to add to your collection.

Before I can start reviewing any pen, I wish to inform readers that the basis of my reviews will be my own, personal experience. I am not a professional pen technician or industrial designer. I do not posses any special, in depth knowledge on the materials used for these pens, the manufacturing processes or the technicalities of how different ink feeding systems functions. I will be evaluating these pens on the same basis that you, as the everyday user of these pens would experience them. Things that will impact directly on how satisfying or not you will experience them in daily use. Most of us have tight budgets, so cost will be an important factor. That is why the majority of my reviews will be for affordable, easily available pens, so as to assure the pleasure of owning and using a fountain pen, is within the reach of everyone with the responsibility of a household and looking after a tight budget.

I will start by reviewing some of the pens in my own collection. Most of these pens will be new, but from time to time I may include an old favourite, such as an Esterbrook or Parker 51. I will evaluate all pens against everyday use requirements, writing on different types of paper and using ink available in your local stationary. For the purpose of stocking my pocket organizer, I am very happy with 80gsm printer paper. However, in a days work I often make notes on paper of much lower quality. For the technical specifications I will include information obtained directly from the manufacturer. If you have a different experience of the same pen, or you can add something, please let me know. There is not always a right and a wrong in evaluating something, and adding your opinion to mine, may just benefit someone else in their choice.

Please visit again, and see what you think of the first fountain pen I have reviewed.

What is your EDC?

I stumbled upon this website the other day, while looking for some other, completely unrelated item. I was immediately intrigued, because here was a website (and since then I have discovered more), that dealt with a topic, and actually gave it a name, that I have been involved in my whole life long. EDC, or Everyday Carry, refers to those items you put in your pocket, satchel, briefcase, handbag , or if you are one of those super organized “EDC’ers”, into a custom build carry, to help you through your everyday expected and unexpected tasks. These do not refer to special tools or items you need as part of your job or a special activity, but, as the name implies, to your everyday activities.

What you do or what you go through as part of your everyday existence will have an influence on the content of your EDC. The first time I read through the content of one of these websites, I was taken back many years, when as a pre-school boy my EDC consist of a pocket knife, my catapult, a few stones as ammunition and a walking stick of some description. These have changed over the years, as I found myself in different phases of my life.

For some people, their EDC consist of items carried on their person as well as in a carry of some description (either a dedicated item, a briefcase etc.) Some may have an EDC that consists of more electronic items. I am still refining my EDC today. To help me organize it I have just made an organizer that fits in my top pocket. This organizer can accommodate my everyday pen (a fountain pen, of course…), some loose leafs of paper, for notes or to be used for sketches as new ideas takes shape and I have to quickly get it into a more permanent database than my brain (this usually happens at a traffic light …). This organizer can also accommodate credit cards or some cash. I tried to keep it as simple as possible, you may have complete different ideas.

'Part of my top pocket  EDC (with trusty Parker 51)

'Part of my top pocket EDC (with trusty Parker 51)

 

 

 

 

 

If you are an EDC’er, or simply someone that have a need for such an organizer, why don’t you get in touch with me with your special ideas, and I can make you one to suit your special needs.

'Part of my top pocket  EDC.

'Part of my top pocket EDC.

 

 

In my next post I will elaborate more on my other EDC items and wish list, which include my own design of the very famous Japanese Higonokami pocket knife.

Untill then, enjoy! Hein

Cover your Axe!!

We all have them at home somewhere. Some of us got it (or them!!) from Grand Dad, from Dad, or.. we even bought them ourselves. Some of us have them oiled, sharpened and neatly stashed somewhere we can find them at any time… whilst some cant remember where they are right now!

I am talking of axes. We use them around the house for kindling for the fire that warms our houses or cooks our meat. Some take them on our camping or survival trips, and some even collects them. However it doesnt really matters what you use your axe for, the blade needs to be protected. Protecting the blade also protects you and every one else that could come into contact with it.

I have three axes. With regular use, you need to look after their cutting edges just as you do with any other cutting instrument.  To do a job safe and effectively, they should be sharp. That is why they should be protected.

I came up with two different designs. The one offer the advantage that you can store your round axe hone in a safe pouch that forms part of the axe cover. Ideal if you go camping or out bush. Please note this feature is only available for axes with 125mm or larger blades.

The other option is just a simple and extremely effective pouch. Both are made from about 3mm thick vegetable tanned bovine leather, riveted and stitched for maximum strength.

To order, send me the measurements of your axe, and I will custom made the cover to your specifications.

"Axe cover with build in pouch for hone"

"Axe cover with build in pouch for hone"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Axe cover in dark brown leather"

"Axe cover in dark brown leather"

A gripping story: Leather bicycle hand grips.

It all started when the original, plastic handgrips on my lovely 1956 Triumph Butler finally entered that stage of their lives where they were seriously beginning to interfere with my cycling pleasure. These old grips, the type that had deep ridges or ribs where they contact the fingers, were literally falling to pieces during every trip. And every time this happened, the remainder became more and more uncomfortable to use.

I looked at various options, including some leather grips available from other manufacturers. in the end I decided to design and build my own. After all, supplying the vintage bicycle  collectors and users of the world with great leather accessories is what I do.

My design criteria were predominantly based on comfort, durability and looks, with the latter being of slightly less importance than the first two.

I addressed the issue of comfort by using two layers of minimum three millimeter thick layers of leather. This gave me a final thickness that not only was comfortable and soft to the touch, but also of a very comfortable overall diameter. Personally I experience a very high degree of improvement, and in some cases a total absence of numbness of the hands on long trips. A problem I still have with some of my bicycles equipped with standard grips.

Now, lets look at the appearance. You be the judge, after all, every person experience aesthetics on a different level. I like the boldness (they look unbreakable..), plainness (natural beauty from the leather..) and the simple uncluttered appearance. Here is a pair of dark brown hand grips, in chopper leather, with a high oil content.

" Dark brown handgrips in chopper leather"

" Dark brown hand grips in chopper leather"

Please look at my “Products page” to see grips in other colours of leather.

Now, the issue of durability. Firstly, the stitching is completely done by hand, using a nylon waxed braid that is far superior to any other form of thread. The grips is formed around a 22mm mandril, using a cold molded technique, that also leaves a nearly water proof membrane between the two layers of leather.

The proof is in the eating (or in this case the using.) Here is a photo of the same pair of grips fitted to my Triumph, after the first thousand kilometres of actual use. I was very impressed. Although I cannot make predictions of a lifespan at this stage, I know that for the price, you will be spending your hard earned money very wisely! Do look them up under my “Products page”.

" After the first thousand kilometers..."

" After the first thousand kilometers..."

 

 

 

 

 

 

" After the first thousand kilometers..."

" After the first thousand kilometers..."

Reivilo Watch Straps: The only watch strap you will ever need!

For a long time now I have been toying with the idea of making my own watch straps. Like many of you, I am absolutely fascinated by mechanical watches, especially those between the 1950s and the seventies that hold a special attraction for me. I collects watches not only because I have a fascination with the precision engineering that goes into making them,  but also because of the tangible link they provide us with the past.

Amongst my favourite watch manufacturers are those made in Russia during the Soviet era. Raketa, Rodina, Vostok, Pobeda, Poljot and so many more- all steeped in history, tradition and soaked in stories that will never be told, but that do come alive with a bit of imagination… Most of these are of a very simple design, can be found at very affordable prices today, and yet they are capable of excellent time-keeping.

Watch straps that are authentic to these watches are often of a design where the watch sits on a broader leather backing, and the actual strap is then threaded through. Probably comfortable when you live somewhere with snow for a great part of the year, but where I live in Sunny Queensland, very hot and sweaty. They were also traditionally of appalling quality….!

Straps on the internet were in most cases limited to black or brown (questionable quality), or a nylon webbing type, that you can buy in rolls wherever upholstery or horse gear is for sale.

So, being a leatherworker, the obvious solution was to design and built my own.

To me, a watch strap is first and foremost the means by which your watch is securely and comfortably, attached  to your arm. It should be complementary to the watch, not competition. The same goes for the buckle: strength, security and an understated design. Both these components are there to facilitate the wearing of the main object, the watch.

There are beautifully, handcrafted buckles available, sometimes more expensive than the watch itself. Although they are pieces of art, they never are appreciated, not even by the wearer. They spend their entire lives completely out of view, and unless the wearer purposely show them off, never gets appreciated.

The buckle I have designed for Reivilo watch straps are 2mm stainless steel, rugged, robust yet hand finished by myself to not look out of place on even the finest Kangaroo leather strap. Depending on the size of the strap, I use an 16mm or an 18mm buckle.

For the strap itself I use either Bovine (cow), or Kangaroo leather. I love colours! I have played around with attaching a Dark blue strap to a very formal brushed stainless steel dress watch and was astonished how that livened the watch up!. Similarly, a Red strap on my Vostok Komandirskie, picks up the red on the dial and hands and placed this watch in a completely differrent class. I have made straps to pick up the colour on the tip of a seconds hand, to match red emblem on a Waltham, A forest green strap to match a Raketa with a green inner face, a blue strap to complement the blue seconds hand of a Poljot…and so many more. Once you start experimenting with colour, it opens up a lot of potential, that traditionally was limited by what was available in Black, or a few different shades of brown.

Reivilo straps come padded, or not padded, single layer or double, natural edge or with an edge colour complimenting the leather. Look at the photos on my Products page for some of the styles available. And as with all my products, each strap is individually handcrafted, stitched by myself, using virtually indestructable nylon braided cord in either black or brown. This method gives every strap its unique bold, purposeful appearance.

I am often asked if Leather is the best choice for a watch strap, with so many artificial materials around. My answer is simply, no, but it is undoubtedly the most beautiful and stylish option!

And if this is not enough, please have a look at my unique Reivilo guarantee on my products page. I know that leather dont last forever, and that every piece of leather has its own characteristics that sets it apart from another piece. With this in mind I have developed my unique Reivilo guarantee, to protect you, the user.

I am constantly developing and testing new designs, and welcomes any ideas you may have.

Enjoy your vintage watches, and do treat them to a strap by Reivilo, you will be pleasantly surprised!