Monday, 30 April 2018

LEONARDO - the pen with the enigmatic smile

I don't know what it is that drapes suggestively over the Italian psyche like a designer canopy; but "Italian", "art", "design" and "beauty" just seem to be different aspects of the same word.

DaVinci, Micaheangelo, Botticelli;

Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari;
Versace, Armani, Prada, Dolce Gabbana; 
OMAS, Visconti, Montegrappa, Tibaldi, Stipula, Delta;
Spag Bol...

...Enter the Leonardo Officina Italiana, Momento Zero, penna stilografica (the last bit is just Italian for 'fountain pen'; but it seemed so prosaic to throw in a couple of english words after that cornucopia of Italian lyricism) - assuming fountain pen is two words and not one - but let's not go there.

The Leonardo Momento Zero, (notionally translated as Point Zero, the beginning) is another example of Italian artistry and style showing the Quillosphere the potential for art in a beautiful writing instrument.


FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Packaging is fine (a black cardboard box with a pen inside). I know that some of you can get a little orgasmic over packaging; but it's just not my focus. It's a box OK? I bought the pen!  

Box open (instructions and booklets to the side), there she is. The "Positano Blue" resin translates well from the website of Casa Della Stilografica. The swirls of blue and white, consistent with the village of Positano on the Italian Amalfi coast, send me to visions of sea, sky and freedom.
Cap off, the gold coloured steel nib looks good. I'm not sure about the step between section and barrel; the resin is a little lighter in a few spots than I'd like; but that's over-picky. 

It's a seductive little sucker!
8/10

APPEARANCE AND DESIGN
If it wasn't already clear, the Momento Zero has a lot of strada appeal (yes, that's Italian for 'Street').

Leonardo makes this pen in a few guises: celluloid, ebonite and resin. Each of the models are the same shape and dimensions; but the celluloid and ebonite have gold nibs, are piston fillers, have ebonite feeds, are produced in very limited numbers (100 of the celluloid and 10 of the ebonite) and cost over four times more than the Resin and Steel, captive converter, plastic feed alternatives.

It would be fair to say that my pen's celluloid sibling is the star of this Model; but its resin relation is no slouch!

It was the Momento Zero's looks that first drew me to the pen on-line, and regardless of the material, the design, quality, and looks do not disappoint. 

Reminiscent of other Italian fountain pens, while not a particularly new or innovative design the Momento Zero still represents a nod to the better styles of OMAS, Delta and Montegrappa (in Montegrappa's less rococo phases). This is not entirely surprising given that Leonardo's founder, Salvatore Matron, worked for Delta and his Company has, amongst other things, put together pens for the OMAS inspired Armando Simoni Club (ASC). 

Here she is with an OMAS Paragon for comparison (and an ASC in the background)
From the moment you hold the Momento Zero and turn it in your hand, you can see the touches that suggest the Leonardo brand has a future.  From the slightly pointed finial and culo (bottom), to the depth of the resin swirls; from the roller at the end of the gold clip to the twin gold bands at the bottom of the cap; it's the details that create the momento.
The Resin version of the Momento Zero is numbered but not limited (the celluloid and ebonite versions are limitied). It's an interesting choice, but it works for me (and maintains that slightly quirky, Italian variation on a theme).The cap doesn't post deeply; but it posts securely and, while adding length, doesn't overbalance the pen but provides the profile with even more surf and sky.

Two design aspects that I am not so keen on are the lack of an ink-window (always a helpful feature but missing here) and the step between the section and barrel. The step was designed I assume to give the Momento Zero a relatively consistent profile and flow when capped. When capped, the Momento Zero's profile is relatively straight. This is achieved by having a cut between the body and section that is marked with a gold band. While the section cut delivers flow on the capped pen, that flow is jarringly severed once uncapped. It's not a huge step, but enough that I could feel a disturbance in the (design) force. 
you can see the step here under the threads, marked by the gold band. It's not big, but it's noticeable.  
The section itself is a good size. The threads are soft and towards the rear of the section so should not interfere with most people's writing position.

8/10

WEIGHT AND DIMENSIONS
It's light, but not too much so (25g). There would be no fatigue issues writing Dante's Inferno with the Momento Zero over a chianti or three.

Capped, the Momento Zero measures 142mm. Uncapped, that length reduces to around 129mm.

Posted the Momento Zero extends to 169mm. The measurements should tell you that it's not a deep poster, but it's secure. The cap is also quite light, so posting doesn't pose a balance problem. For those who grip their pen on the section (which is the majoritiy of you - unlike me), posting may make the pen a little too long; but in that case the pen is a good size uncapped in any case (buy a Penwell and your cap problem will go away!).

Using a Lamy Safari and a Pelikan 805 as comparisons, the Momento Zero measures almost identically. Although I have a tendency to prefer a marginally heavier pen, this is an excellent size and weight in my view.


8/10

NIB AND PERFORMANCE
The nib is a gold-coloured Leonardo branded #6 size steel nib. I have the Medium and it wrote smoothly immediately out of the box. 

It's more al dente than flex, so not a lot of variation or bounce; but the nib glides along the paper like a gondola on a Venetian lagoon.
The plastic feed here, is a little excited by being glistened with some Colorverse Cat Ink

The nibs are one of the differentiators between the various Leonardo Momento Zero models. The resin version is steel with a plastic feed. The celluloid and ebonite versions are 14k gold and ebonite feeds that sound extremely promising. Nevertheless, for significantly less Lira, the performance of the steel nib is delightful.
Top is normal writing, next is fast writing, bottom is reverse writing. No skips, all solid.
8/10

FILLING SYSTEM
You know by now that I'm a piston-filling sort of guy; and, of course, the celluloid and ebonite models of the Momento Zero are piston fillers.

The resin version of the Momento Zero is your next best option mixed with a little slight-of-hand in the form of a "captive converter". Sticking with the magic analogy, the captive converter provides the distraction to the audience, while the writer is in command of the real story.

What does this mean? Go to the bottom of the barrel and you unscrew the resin and reveal a brass (or gold coloured) turning knob. Put your nib in a bottle of ink, turn the knob, and for all intents and purposes, you have a piston filler in action - but you don't. 
Ooo look, a Piston-filler....
(Turn away now if you don't want to know how the trick works).

Unscrew the section and you'll see a long but otherwise fairly standard converter that goes down to the bottom of the barrel. Thus the Momento Zero resin model can be filled either with the section screwed on or off.
Here is the real story: everything unscrewed.
So it's not a piston-filler; but whichever way you choose to fill it with ink, it's easy to fill, the converter is a good size so there is a nice ink capacity, it's easy to clean, and the nib delivers that ink wonderfully to the page.

7/10

COST AND VALUE
I've made a number of references in this review to the different models of the Momento Zero and their different price points. The resin model retails for around 121 Euros; so it's not a cheap pen. For that money however, you get the look, feel and overall quality of a fountain pen that is great value for your lira.

The celluloid and ebonite versions retail at around 569 Euro (excluding VAT). I believe most are now sold out so there is no shortage of interest. Nevertheless, at that price, the celluloid and ebonite versions of the Momento Zero are up against some stiff competition, limited editions or not. As big a celluloid and ebonite lover as I am, sight unseen I wasn't prepared to take the risk to purchase the celluloid or ebonite versions. Having received the resin version, and written with it, I would have to say that I'm very impressed and suspect that the more expensive versions will also give other models a run for their money.

8/10

CONCLUSION
The Leonardo Officina Italliana Momento Zero is a piccolo touch of italian pennacchio! (the italian for style and flamboyance that, naturally, begins with a 'pen').

It looks great, performs well and is excellent value for money. I look forward to seeing the Leonardo Brand extending its offerings in the future and continuing to elicit more enigmatic smiles from its users.

78/100



00-50
To be avoided at all costs
51-60
It’s cheap and you don’t really care
61-70
A nice pen with the makings of something better (just don’t spend too much)
71-80
A better than average pen with just a few flaws that stop it from being really good.
81-90
A good pen, a keeper, only a few minor places off being great
91-95
Now THIS is a pen! If you can get it: keep it, love it, cherish it, and keep it away from the dog
96-100
GRAIL


Monday, 9 October 2017

This notebook is a Ripper! (and that was a tear-able joke!)





In the hustle and bustle of Little Collins Street in the Melbourne CBD, lies a humble, little stationery haven named Bookbinders Design*. 

Bookbinders Design** is one of my favourite Melbourne stationery haunts. Its owners love what they do and you can feel the stationery love each time you meander through its well organised, colour-coded collections of notebooks (including their own, Leuchturrm, and Midori/Travellers) pens (including Caran d’Ache and Ajoto), washi tape, rubber stamps, paper (including Tomoe River) and general stationery paraphernalia.

The good folk at Bookbinders Design recently reached out to me to write a review of their notebook, and, delightfully, provided me with a monogramed notebook for the review. While the focus of this blog is fountain pens, clearly if one uses a fountain pen, one uses it on something: generally paper. Unbiased by giveaways (but happy to accept them) today’s blog is therefore a review of the Bookbinders Design Signature-design cloth notebook – clearly with a focus on Fountain pens.

To assist me in this review, I engaged the talents of the many who attended the recent Melbourne Pelikan Hubs event. “Please write in the notebook and let me know what you think” I asked them; and write and divulge they did.

I also asked a fellow Fountain Pens Australia Facebook member, (and one of the organisers of the Melbourne Pen Show) Silvana Abela, to join me in putting this notebook to the test; so, fountain pens at the ready we challenged and tested the Bookbinders Design Signature Notebook to see if it performs as well as it looks.
Our working table

THE COVER
The cover is really the centerpiece of the Bookbinders Design Signature Notebook. Indeed, as the name of the shop would imply, quality bookbinding is the hallmark of this establishment. The colours especially are what attracted me to both the shop and the notebook in the first place, and provide a fabulous “ambiente” to the shop. Made in Sweden from what they call “Bookbinding Linen” and coming in what I counted on their website to be over 20 different colours, these covers scream soft sophistication and sumptuous, Scandinavian style.
The colours in situ at Bookbinders by Design Shop

Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm
 
Notebook Cloth 210 x 240 mm



The cornucopia of colours of Bookbinders Design Signature-design notebooks on their website

I’m not sure that my iPhone can really do justice to the subtle weave of the cloth cover, but the weave is beautifully delicate and just begs to be touched. That being said, the cloth doesn’t feel flimsy or overly delicate either.

Bookbinders Design will also happily (for a price) personalise your notebook with initials or text to give it that extra personal touch. A range of fonts are offered including:
  • Artcraft italic,
  • Bodoni Trueface,
  • Caslon Bold,
  • Garamond Bold italic,
  • Helvetica Medium and
  • Mandate.


The lettering can be produced in seven different colours: gold, silver, copper, blind (I guess you just can’t see that one), clear, black and white (arguably, those latter too are not, technically, colours, but you get the drift).

Front cover
Back cover - subtle logo
THE BINDING
Coming in three sizes: 170mm x 200mm, 210 x 240mm and A4, Bookbinders Design claim that their notebook in all its sizes is “Traditionally bound, like in the old days”Unfortunately I cannot claim to be a bookbinding buff; and I was not around in the old days (although my daughter would beg to differ); nevertheless I can say that the binding is certainly solid, it’s not stapled and I have no sense of anything other than high quality. Hopefully this picture will satisfy the more knowledgeable of you.
Yes, it comes with a bookmark too

The inside cover and opening page (front and back) are covered with a colour-matching, slightly thicker grade card-stock followed (or preceded in the case of the back cover) by the notebook proper. This both makes the book look a cut above many others, and nicely reinforces the colours of the cover.

 
The Bookbinders Design Signature Notebook does not open flat but not too far from it. And in holding it open, there is no sense of it being flimsy; or concern with it coming loose from its binding. Even so, one page or the other will always pop up a little towards the centre of the notebook, and this would be a little annoying if you were using it for drawing or similar artistic endeavour.
 
PAPER
A notebook without paper is a folder. Paper maketh (or unmaketh) the notebook. In this case, Bookbinders Design use white, Swedish 100gsm paper (I can’t tell you what the difference between Swedish and other country’s 100gsm paper may be). The paper is smooth to the touch (so no obvious fibres), and does not appear coated in any way (like Rhodia paper may be).

Bookbinders Design also make a number of additional claims for the blank and ruled formats of their paper:

1.    Acid free
2.    Totally chlorine free (TCF) – I guess this means you         can swim in it without hurting your eyes
3.    Age-Resisting (what’s your secret?); and
4.    Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC).

What does all this mean? Well my research has dug up the following:

1.    The advantage of Acid-free paper is that it provides a good base for the things you put on your paper to remain there and not disappear over time. Paper with acid in it (which is not uncommon) can interact with the materials you use on the paper and cause them to decay over time
2.    Chlorine is often used in the wood pulp bleaching process. Why is this bad? Where chorine is used, the compounds are generally released into waterways as effluent where they may produce environmental damage. So this won’t change your writing experience, just something for the soul (not to be underestimated).
3.    Age-resistant paper is also linked with the acid-free component. According to an article sourced from Klug conservation, in order for paper to claim that it is age-resistant it must meet the following criteria:
“ • The paper must be free of unbleached cellulose pulp or wooden fibres. Thus pulp or semi-pulp fibre materials can be excluded.
• The paper must possess a low content of oxidisable material,” …
“• The paper must have an alkaline buffer – an alkaline reserve – of at least 2 % natural calcium carbonate.
• The pH value in the cold water extract must lie between 7.5 and 10.”
[See, that’s much clearer!]
4.    FSC is a certification that, since 1993 allows customer to choose paper, amongst other things, that has been sourced in an environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and economically viable way. (source: mother nature network)

UNDER INK
OK. All this is starting well. The real test however, is how does it cope with being written on?

The Melbourne Pelikan Hubsters assisted this review by writing in my Bookbinders Design Signature Notebook in various pens and inks. Silvana and I then continued to play with the paper to see what it could do…

If you are planning to use a fountain pen, pencil, ballpoint or other writing implement to write in your Bookbinders notebook, we think you’ll be happy with your choice. We wrote on the paper in a variety of inks and nibs and, with the exception of what looks like a red marker (to the Pelkan Hubster that wrote “Pelikan Hubs” in red – feel free to post a comment on what you used), there was really no bleed-through or problem.

Back of the previous page - very little bleed-through with fountain pens



One hubster suggested that there was a little feathering; but we examined the pages thoroughly and, other than with a 30x loupe, we could not visibly discern any feathering with regular nibs. Drying time was about average (probably quicker than Tomoe River). When we used dip nibs, however, whether it was scratching the paper or a higher saturation of ink, there was some minor feathering to the writing.

Next we tried using some calligraphy pens of a brand named Automatic Pens (that were a lot of fun to use, and easy to clean). The results here were not so good. In each case we drew one continuous line and then wrote underneath it, mostly in dip pen. What we found was that while there was no discernable issue on the page in question, there was bleed-through to the next page, and the dampness made an impression on a number of following pages. 
You can see the dip nibs start to feather a little here; although the saturated lines look OK.
Unfortunately, those saturated lines have started to saturate through

We were so intrigued by this that we wrote again on the paper with a 2.4mm Pilot Parallel and a 1.1 Franklin Christoph stub nib (in a Pen Addict FC pen) to see if there were any issues on the paper – there were none; but upon drawing another wetter, thicker line underneath this, BAM, more bleed-through.


Once again, no real issue with normal fountain pen writing (even with the 2.4mm Pilot Parallel); but once the ink gets a little saturated...
 We then tested the wider line and same ink on Rhodia graph paper  (which is coated) and Midori (MD) Paper (which does not appear to be coated) to see if they performed any better. The Midori paper had no bleed through at all and the Rhodia paper had next to no bleed-through. Our conclusion is that perhaps all that environmentally positive lack of bleaching, chlorine and the FSC accreditation means that some of the chemicals needed to stop the bleed-through were unable to be used here, causing some issue when a more saturated ink line is required.

Just to be thorough, we tried a few ballpoint and pencil scribblings too (we drew the line - see what I did there? - at rollerballs); and unsurprisingly all was good on that front.


CONCLUSION
The Bookbinders Design Signature Notebook is an excellent, value-for-money product. The quality of binding, the ridiculously large option of different colour covers, the presentation and monogram options all make for an extremely desirable and useful product/gift that will protect your writing and last for generations.

From a fountain pen (and ballpoint/pencil) users perspective, the paper offers a fabulous surface for writing or drawing. If you were thinking of using the notebook for painting or larger, wetter ink exposures however, be wary of bleed-through to the next page – put something behind the page to protect following pages and all should be forgiven.

Thankyou Bookbinders Design for providing the Notebook, and to Silvana and the Melbourne Pelikan Hub folk for their contributions to the testing regime. I look forward to seeing you all at the Melbourne Pen Show on 26 November; and don't forget to have a happy International Fountain Pen Day on 3 November.

 Until next tine...


*Bookbinders Design should not be mistaken with that other excellent Australian stationery purveyor: Bookbinders Online, which is an unaffiliated stationery company based in Aspley, Queensland, on the North east coast of Australia.

**Pelikan Hub is a world-wide event auspiced by Pelikan Pens where fountain pen owners around the world are encouraged to meet in cities around the world on a single night in September each year to share their pens, inks and good humour.