Monday, May 24, 2010

Dr. Digby Dork

Taccia Portugese

1. First Impressions

My first impression was surprise. I'd never seen a Taccia pen before - never heard of them and then my wife who never tries to surprise me with a fountain pen picks out this one for my 50th birthday. She knows I love simple black and silver pens and chose a pen that I love. Thanks babe!

2. Appearance and Design

I love the simple design. Very classy. I don't know why but I especially like the black dot on the top of the cap surrounded by chrome with the name "Taccia Portugese" etched in a circle: nice detail. Unlike the very poorly designed cap button on the Taccia Momenta, which carries an ugly TC logo in the middle. Also, the unusual placement of the threading at the base of the finger flare just above the nib is an interesting feature.

3. Weight and Dimensions

The size threw me off at first. It has a comfortable girth but it is very short without the cap. Fortunately the cap post fairly securely and is very well balanced. The pen is very light and comfortable to write with over extended periods. [Sorry, I'd like to list dimensions but the ruler's not handy]

4. Nib Performance

Excellent. Possibly the best steel nib I have ever written with. Mine is a medium but writes on the narrow side of medium and kind of wet. This nib has never dried out, never skipped, never needed rinsing. It writes instantly every single time. Plus the nib has a slight italic character to it - kind of flat on the tip - and so it writes with some character. I use J. Herbin's Cacao du Bresil.

5. Filling System

Only draw back: the barrel is too short for a long converter. So you are stuck using the short Monteverde plunger style converter or cartridges. I use the short converter and runs out of ink fast. I am thinking this might be a good candidate for an eyedropper conversion.

6. Cost and Value

It was a gift so I'm not sure about the cost. I suspect around $70. And at that it writes better than any other pen I have in that range. The closest competitor might be a Lamy Studio but the Taccia Portugese writes even smoother than the Lamy - compared both out of the box with no adjustment.

7. Clip. This pen has got a great clip. It is springy and has a ball on the underside rather than that folded sheet metal design that many pens have, so it doesn't tear up your shirt pocket when you take it in and out. Also, the cap and clip design don't create an unintended vent that causes the nib to dry out.

8. Conclusion - Final Score

It is a 10. I love this pen but it probably wouldn't be good for someone with big hands. I have medium sized hands and I find it would be more comfortable if the barrel was longer, but that's partly because I don't prefer to post the cap. I'm guessing the Portugese Imperial would be perfect for man hands.


Epilogue

I loved the Taccia Portugese so much that I recently purchased a Taccia Momenta. It is also a well made pen and writes well. it is considerably longer and a some heavier than the Portugese, but frankly the design is too busy for me. I liked it in the photos but not so much in person. So, the Momenta is up for sale on eBay.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cross Apogee

INTRO. I am really reluctant to post anything at the Pub unless I can include photos and spend a couple of hours writing. As you can see that isn't working too well, since my posts are too few and far between. However, when I received this Cross Apogee from my daughter and son-in-law I knew it was time to get back on track and write about this outstanding pen.

APPEARANCE. This Apogee is the "Frosty Steel" finish and it glistens - catching and reflecting blue light at multiple tiny points across the barrel of the pen. I know we get pens primarily to write with but this one is pleasant just to look at. At first I thought the nib looked a bit small for the size of the pen but have since come to see it as corresponding well to the tapered opposite end. It is a very handsome pen.

NIB. My previous experience with Cross is that they are wet and wide writers. So, I ordered an XF nib expecting it to write like a fine nib, and I was not surprised. The nib is 18kt gold but still stiff. Not as stiff as an ATX steel nib but stiffer than you might think for an 18kt nib. Apart from that, it is an exceptionally smooth and consistent writer. So far, I am using Cross Blue ink, which I really like. With the XF nib, it is perfect for my very thin Clairefontaine paper: no bleed through. It writes on first contact every time - no flow issues whatsoever.

WEIGHT. On the top heavy side with the cap posted. But I prefer writing with the cap off, so that is not an issue for me. Without the cap it is a comfortable weight (sorry - no grams) - though heavier than a resin pen.

CLIP. The clip is really unusual. It is spring loaded and the end has to be depressed before you can put it in your breast pocket. It is a very stiff spring and requires quite a lot of pressure but it can be accomplished with one hand.

INK SUPPLY. This is strange: Cross does not supply converters with their fountain pens. You have to order it separately. Fortunately, I was aware of that and so I ordered it along with the pen. The converter is a well made screw-in converter. I like the fact that it screws in rather than the push-in style of most other converters. It is very secure.

CONCLUSION. I love this pen - can't put it down. It is so pleasant to write with. My only criticisms are that an 18kt nib ought to have more flex to it, and Cross ought to include the converter with the pen, like every other pen maker does. Cross seems to be kind of out of touch with their customer base. You can tell also by the way they write their pen descriptions. Whoever writes that stuff, obviously has know idea what pen enthusiasts care about. They write about the pens as though they are fashion statements rather than marvelous writing instruments - but I'm a guy and that's the way I think. Or, maybe they aren't that interested in pen enthusiasts. As the oldest pen manufacturer in the world, you would think they would have inky fingers - if you know what I mean. Not that it matters much how they advertise, the Apogee is a very fine pen!

UPDATE. Since writing this review, Cross recently redesigned their website, which finally includes pen specs and lists the "optional converter". Their website went from adequate to excellent.