Pens, pencils, paper and ink - 1 (HPR Show 3063)

Looking at a few more writing implements

Dave Morriss

Table of Contents


It’s been over four years since I did a show about fountain pens. It was in the What’s in My Toolkit series entitled What’s in my case, show 1941 released on 2016-01-11.

I thought it might be appropriate to visit the subject once again. I want to tell you about some new pens and pencils I have acquired, some inks I am enjoying and some of the notebooks I have bought.

There’s too much for a single show here, so I’m making a mini-series of three shows. This also leaves the door open for more when the collection grows in the future!

Some new pens

I have not bought many pens since the last show, but have added one or two to my small collection and received a new pen as a present. I have not limited myself to fountain pens but also have a new ballpoint pen, a gel pen and some mechanical pencils. I’ll talk about a few of these in this episode.

LAMY vista

This is a German brand which seems to be available everywhere for a very reasonable price. I wanted to try one to see if I liked it.

This particular model is the vista (all lower case) which is a transparent (Demonstrator) version of the Safari fountain pen.

I know people who absolutely adore the Safari, but I’m only moderately enamoured. I’m not wild about the finger-grip part of the pen which is triangular in cross section. I don’t find it comfortable and dislike being forced to hold the pen in a particular way. Others find this one of the best features!

Although the nib is classified as Extra Fine it’s relatively coarse for my tastes. I have probably been spoiled by Japanese pens. What they define as Fine others would call Extra Fine. This German EF is what I’d call Medium!

The pen takes a cartridge or a converter. I bought the Z24 converter. Now the recommendation is the Z28 converter. I’m unsure of the difference.

The pen cost under £20 when I bought it in 2014, and the converter is under £5. The cap is a push fit, rather than screwing on. I find the pen will dry out moderately quickly if left with ink in it and the cap on.

LAMY vista capped
Picture: The LAMY vista with its cap on

LAMY vista uncapped
Picture: The LAMY vista with its cap off

LAMY vista close-up
Picture: The LAMY vista nib close-up

LAMY vista writing sample
Picture: The LAMY vista writing sample

Note: In the audio I was confused about whether this pen is the Safari or the vista. They are essentially the same, but the Safari is not transparent.


I mentioned the TWSBI brand in my last show, and spoke about the ECO, a good value piston filling pen. I still enjoy mine very much, but since then I have acquired the TWSBI VAC 700.

Unfortunately, this pen is no longer made (though a few stockists still seem to have them). There is a VAC Mini which has replaced the 700. Both are Demonstrator (transparent) pens. The 700 is clear acrylic and the Mini is available in clear or Smoke acrylic.

The TWSBI VAC pens have an unusual vacuum filling mechanism.

I bought a filling accessory for this pen, which consists of an ink bottle which screws onto the pen, the VAC-20A. This allows the chamber to be filled almost totally, where this can be a little difficult if filling from a standard ink bottle. The ink capacity is large for a fountain pen so filling it to capacity is desirable for extended usage.

There is a YouTube video from The Goulet Pen Company showing the filling of this pen with the VAC-20A ink bottle if you are interested. The bottle shown in the video is the VAC-20 which only fits the VAC 700. The VAC-20A, which I have fits the VAC Mini as well.

TWSBI VAC 700 capped
Picture: The TWSBI VAC 700 with its cap on

TWSBI VAC 700 uncapped
Picture: The TWSBI VAC 700 with its cap off

TWSBI VAC 700 close-up
Picture: The TWSBI VAC 700 nib close-up

TWSBI VAC-20A ink bottle
Picture: The TWSBI VAC-20A ink bottle

TWSBI VAC 700 writing sample
Picture: The TWSBI VAC 700 writing sample

This is quite a large pen, but I find it very comfortable to use. Mine has an Extra Fine nib which I really like. Since the pen originates from Taiwan this seems to support the theory that fountain pens from this part of the world tend to have finer nibs than European pens.

The two models of TWSBI VAC pens have a valve on the end which releases the plunger. This needs to be slackened off while writing because it allows air to flow into the barrel and ink to flow to the nib. This is an unusual feature but it means with the valve closed the likelihood of ink leakage is very small indeed. Some people might not like this feature since it’s an extra thing to remember.

My pen originated from my son, from whom I bought it. I don’t remember how much it cost originally. If you wanted to buy one now yourself then you’d probably pay in the region of £75. The VAC-20A is under £15 (at the time of writing). The VAC Mini is under £60.

Pilot Custom Heritage 92

This is a piston filler from Japan. My son, who was in Japan in 2017, bought it for me as a present. This pen tends to be fairly expensive in the UK (and presumably elsewhere) but is priced lower in Japan itself.

This is an acrylic Demonstrator pen. In the UK only the clear version is available, but this one uses blue acrylic. The nib is fine, but I am not sure what it’s made of. The UK version uses a gold tip but I’m not sure whether this one does.

The pen has a quality feel to it, and writes beautifully. It’s not overly large, and to me feels more comfortable with the cap posted on the barrel.

Pilot Custom Heritage 92 capped
Picture: The Pilot Custom Heritage 92 with its cap on

Pilot Custom Heritage 92 uncapped
Picture: The Pilot Custom Heritage 92 with its cap off

Pilot Custom Heritage 92 close-up
Picture: The Pilot Custom Heritage 92 nib close-up

My son and his girlfriend make leather items and they made me a leather carrying case to go with the pen.

Hand-made leather pen case
Picture: Hand-made pen case from my son

Pilot Custom Heritage 92 writing sample
Picture: The Pilot Custom Heritage 92 writing sample

Note: I will be looking at inks such as the J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche in a later show.

The UK version of this pen – clear with a gold nib – costs around £175. I don’t believe that it costs anywhere near as much in Japan!

Ballpoint Pens

I don’t have many of these because on the whole they don’t write very well nor do they suit my handwriting. I normally prefer fountain pens, gel pens and rollerball pens.

Troika Construction

This is something of a novelty pen I think. It is made of metal, has a 6-sided barrel with a twist tip for extending and retracting the ballpoint. The barrel can be used as a ruler and has imperial and metric measurements. It also contains a spirit level. The end of the pen is fitted with a pad that activates touch screens. When unscrewed it reveals a double-ended screwdriver.

As a pen it’s nothing special. It takes small D1 refills which don’t contain a lot of ink and do not write all that well. I don’t really know why I bought it!!

Troika Construction 1
Picture: The Troika Construction ready for use

Troika Construction uncapped
Picture: The Troika Construction showing the screwdriver


These fountain pens included two of my favourites, and one I’m learning to love more! I do use the Troika ballpoint as a pen to write brief notes or shopping lists but I wouldn’t recommend it for general use.

I’ll cover more fountain pens and related matters in the next episode.