The Wancher Ryuko

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So for about the past year and a half, I’ve been neck deep in the world of Asian pens (thanks to guys like Chris Rap and Frank Underwater). Most of these have been pens coming out of China, but a few have been out of Taiwan (hello Twsbi!), Japan (Pilot Metropolitans(s) and (s) and (s)) and just recently, India. It was actually because of some Indian pens I’d purchased that I came across this newest jem, the Wancher Ryuko demonstrator from Japan.

I was perusing the web site of Fountain Pen Revolution, owned and run by a guy named Kevin Thiemann. Side note – I don’t know Kevin “from Adam”, but he has a great web site with both vintage and new pens, many from India and Japan. You should check it out. I had recently ordered a Ranga pen (review to come) from him and was looking to see if there was something else that would make me more financially insolvent. Low and behold, I ran across the Wancher line of pens. They carry two lines, the Zen Sansui, and the Ryuko Demonstrator.

20190225_155254I chose the Ryuko for a (probably) very oddball reason. The clip. For years, I’ve wanted a pen that has a roller ball-tipped clip, much like vintage Wahl pens or some of the current Delta models. This pen hit all the check marks for me. I chose the blue version -that was tough as I have a thing for orange- it also comes in green and orange.

The Ryuko is a flat top in design and harkens back to the Parker Duofold. It’s a demonstrator, but, I would say, a version of a demonstrator, as it has a solid cap and end piece. The resin is absolutely beautiful. It appears to be turned as opposed to injection molded. The polish job is outstanding as well. It takes international cartridges and comes with a converter as well. But it’s also designed to be used as an eyedropper and comes with a bulb syringe for that purpose. This is a fairly substantial pen, here are some of it’s dimensions:

  • 14.5 cm capped
  • 18.3 mm posted
  • 1.5 cm girth for the cap
  • 1.2 cm girth at the widest part of the barrel

Some folks have definite preferences in terms of posting – or not posting – their pens. And while this pen posts securely, it doesn’t post deeply and therefore makes for a VERY long pen posted. I usually do post my pens, but not this one as it’s just too long for me and throws the  balance of the pen off a bit. And I have fairly large hands.

For me, it’s the business end of this pen that really makes it shine. These pens are shipped with German Jowo steel nibs, and mine, a medium, is fantastic! It’s buttery smooth with just the slightest hint of feedback. However, if you’re looking for something soft or some flex, I’d look elsewhere.

To sum things up, the Wancher line of pens is one that I think deserves some time in the spotlight. The Ryuko model retails for $78 US at the time of this writing, via Fountain Pen Revolution. I’m sure it’s available through other outlets, but I haven’t researched that at this time. It’s a great pen as a “step up” from some of the more entry level choices of pens available today. Pick one up. I dare say you won’t be disappointed!

 

A companion video to the review:

 

Keeping Myself Organized (aka, Finding the Perfect Notebook System)

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I consider myself to be a fairly organized person, and at the same time, kind of a mess. I run a mishmash of digital and analog technologies on a day to day basis. On the one hand, I don’t think you can beat analog for convenience. There’s almost always a scrap of paper and something to write with around, almost anywhere you are. Plus there’s the fact that I love fountain pens and paper, and therefore like to write things down. That addresses being in the moment.

But when it comes to going back, to accessing the information previously recorded, I don’t think you can beat digital. That is, if you initially input things digitally. But now with the advent of scanners, OCR, tags and things like Evernote, intermingling the digital and analog worlds is fairly easy, and more and more commonplace.

20180130_123358I run all my calendar information through Google Calendar. Everything. Multiple calendars for work and home and the ability to share with my wife and kids. All my note taking is done in a notebook, and later scanned into Evernote.

As far as notebook systems go, that’s where I feel like kind of a mess. I’ve tried just about all of them, and several I’ve changed from – and returned to – again and again. I started off with Moleskin and Moleskin knock-offs in the 5.5 x 3.5 size. Love the convenience of that size. That gave way to the  disc based systems, first with Levenger then Staples ARC system. I really bought into this system, picking up several notebooks in various sizes and getting a heavy duty hole punch to be able to use the disc system to it’s full potential. Utilizing the hole punch and some really nice heavy laser paper, I designed my own sheets too. But the size and slight bulkiness (I used the Jr size notebook) began to put me off, so I went to Field notes with a leather cover from Rustico.

But ultimately, I really, REALLY like the disk system. Currently, Staples offers 3 sizes of these notebooks, a letter size, a Junior size, and a “compact” size (paper size 4.25 x 5.75). It’s this last one that I kept thinking about. It was close in size to the Moleskin; that was a big plus for me. And then adding to that, it’s the disc system, and I love that! Another big plus! But a huge minus for me – it’s just a hard plastic / nylon cover. My letter and Jr size Arc notebooks have nice, real leather covers. So my first thought was – make my own leather cover for it. Yep. That’s what I’ll do. I typically enjoy stuff like that. However, once I started adding up the costs to acquire all the tools I would need, as well as the leather itself, I began to think I might need a plan B.

So….Plan B.

Can I find an existing leather cover that would fit the Staples Arc  “Mini”? (I don’t know the correct name for this Arc notebook, so I’ll refer to it as the “Mini”. My article, my rules.)

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The Staples Arc Mini version

The Arc Mini notebook hosts 5 discs, has outside covers that were 4.625 inches wide by 5.9375 tall and houses 4.25 by 5.75 inch paper. So, I need to either A) find something that would accommodate that notebook, or, B) find a leather cover that that I really like, and make my circa notebook fit it.

I investigated several sources of leather goods companies, and ultimately, I ended up utilizing the first company I thought of to check with.

About a year ago, I did a review on a large leather notebook cover from a company called Galen Leather, based in Turkey.  They sent me their “Extra Large Moleskin” model which I gave a 6 out of 5 stars. And I meant it. Turns out they offer the same style of notebook called the “Leather Leuchtturm 1917 A6 Notebook” cover.

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Leather Leuchtturm 1917 A6 Notebook

This A6 size works out to about 4.9 by 6.9 inches. I thought it might be a tight fit, but it would be close. So I figured I’d try it, and if it didn’t fit, I could shave off the cover of the Arc notebook itself and make it fit.

And…..It worked. Basically. Initially, I just slid the back cover of the Arc through the elastic band of the Galen leather cover. The problem was that the Arc notebook tended to shift around too much inside the leather cover. Ultimately, I used a 2nd back cover on the Arc, shaved off about 1/8th inch off the top and bottom of that cover, and inserted that into the back flap slot of the Galen cover. Perfect. Nice, snug fit and no shifting around.

I ordered my cover in brown (it’s available in a LOT of colors). The leather is fairly heavy weight, and yet still supple. It’s vegetable tanned and exquisitely stitched.  The edges are smooth and burnished. Simply stated, these Galen covers are absolutely fantastic!

Following are some eye candy and links to other reviews on these covers.

Companion Video HERE!

Galen Leather

 

The Moonman Has Landed! Introducing the Moonman M2

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Another Chinese pen up for review today, this time, the Moonman M2. My intention was to have some information about the company itself, but unfortuneately, I wasn’t able to come up with much, which is to say…. next to nothing.

I. First Impressions 9/10

My real first impression of this pen was formed when I first saw a picture of it, and then a YouTube review of this pen by Chris Rapp. The first thing I was impressed with, was how beautiful I thought it looked. To me, it looked like art. Appearance is very subjective, but I thought the pen was just beautiful. Upon receipt of the pen, all those positive first impressions were merely confirmed and reinforced.

II. Appearance 9/10

As I just stated, it’s beautiful. Art. I’ve grown to really like demonstrator pens over the last 3 or 4 years. With a typical demonstrator,there’s several interesting internal components to see.

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As this pen is an eye dropper only filler, the only “things” to see are the nib and feed in the section, and the ink in the body cavity. That’s it. And that’s part of what lends to it’s simple beauty.

The pen comes in one flavor, clear acrylic with a red anodized aluminum band (with the Moonman brand emblazoned in white) between the cap and body. And a gold plated steel extra-fine nib. The pen’s shape is distinctly torpedo-shaped and the clear acrylic body is highly polished both inside and out. Capped, the only line on the pen is horizontally where the cap meets up with the body. The body line of the pen is continuous as the cap is the same diameter as the body at the point where they meet, making for a clean line, end to end.

III. Design / Size / Weight 7/10

I have to admit, part of what attracted me to this pen was something that typically would have put me off: it lacks any kind of clip. I’m a practical kind of guy. And almost any pen (to me) without a clip is impractical — other than “pocket” pens, small and designed to be carried in a pants pocket. Like a Kaweco Sport or Lilliput, for example. This pen is not that. It’s one of a growing number of modern pens that eschews a clip for the sake of aesthetics. Specs on the pen are as follows:

  • Capped: 139mm
  • Posted: 155mm
  • Girth: 14mm
  • Weight: 15 grams

My only reason for the 7 score is the lack of a clip. But I struggle with that justification as adding a clip would ruin the beautiful look of the pen.

IV. Nib 9/10

Ok, it’s a 9 out of 10 for what it is. What it is, is a .38mm extra-fine nib. And it’s outstanding. Gold plated extra-fine steel nib, probably the best example of which I own.

V. Filling System 8/10

What to say here. It’s an eyedropper only system and it works. It holds a huge amount of ink, approximately 3ml. As an additional click on the cool meter, the pen comes with a real eye dropper pipette.

VI. Cost / Value 9/10

At $15 (what I paid for mine on eBay), the only reason I have for not rating it a 10 is not knowing how well it will hold up after say, a year in use. Based upon the apparent quality of construction and the materials used, my guess is it will hold up very well indeed. Time will tell though.

VII. Conclusion 8.5 / 10

So the only reason this pen doesn’t score higher than 8.5 overall is paradoxical. And mostly having to do with design and filling. It’s because the pen lacks a clip, that it’s so beautiful (again, at least to me). But that also gives the pen a characteristic of impracticality. And because it’s only an eye dropper filler, it’s beautiful. But it’s certainly not as convenient to fill. If you travel with it, you’ll also need to take a syringe or eye dropper to fill with.

So to tie things up, this $15 pen, made in China (and to my limited knowledge, not a knock off of anything else) is another example of an eastern pen that offers FAR more value than many of it’s mainstream counterparts. Most, in fact.

Some other great reviews on the Moonman M2:

What’s With All These Chinese Pens? Meet the Wing Sung 601

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So for the last year or so, I’ve – plunged – neck deep into the world of Chinese pens. Actually, my first acquisitions of these Asian pens started probably 8 or 9 years ago. But only a pen here or there. And what I’ve seen over the last several years is a marked change in those products.

Used to be (and maybe for some brands, still is…) that the quality of the pen you acquired might vary from good to crappy. While it’s still true that one might still come across a crappy individual pen, for the most part, today the pens I’m seeing are generally of good to great quality. And when you pair the quality with price, you get…… wait for it…….value.

It’s that value proposal that has driven my interest for the last year plus. I think the same can be said for a lot of other people (read “pen” people). But if you you, like me, have had a keen interest in these types of Asian pens, you may have also noted that there’s a LOT of controversy attached to this subset of fountain pens.

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A Wing Sung knock-off of a Lamy Al Star. Not a fake. Patent violation though?

Specifically, many in the pen community see these pens as almost abominations. Pens and the companies that produce them, are seen by some (ok, maybe many) as industrial pariahs. That they simply exist in order to profit off of the work of other, “better” companies.

While I can see why some would make that argument, I don’t generally see them that way. I DO have a HUGE problem with fakes. But that’s not what these types of pens are.

— DISCLAIMER —

I don’t claim to be an attorney, and as such don’t claim to have intimate knowledge with patents, patent law, what’s legal and when, etc. So while some or many of these pens may be violating the law, I can’t and don’t assume that they are.

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The pens that I’m referring to are pens that I would call knock-offs, or in some cases homage pens. Pens that are produced to closely mimic or at least have lots of similarities with better known “main-line” pens, but aren’t pretending that they are, in fact, made by those other companies. And as of today, there are lots of these pens being produced. That brings us (after an overly exaggerated and un-needed rant) to the topic of this review, the Wing Sung 601

The Wing Sung 601 is a direct knock-off of the venerable Parker 51. And further, a specific 51 timeline. Initially introduced in 1941, the Parker 51 was totally unique. It featured a 14k gold hooded nib, a metal slip cap and a solid colored body. The pen was originally produced with Parker’s venerable “vacumatic” pump filler system. This system allowed the pen to hold an enormous amount of ink, as it’s body cavity contained the ink as opposed to a smaller internal sac. A spring loaded plunger pushed against a rubber diaphragm which, when released, created a vacuum that would suck up the ink into the body cavity. The pen was produced in this basic configuration until about 1948 when Parker introduced the “Aeromatic” filling system, a squeeze-type filling system.

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One of the things that makes this Wing Sung 601 so wicked cool (…to me anyway…) is that they’ve made this pen with a vacumatic style filling system. In fact, this is the only modern pen I know of, that offers this type if filling system. And it’s been done well. At least seemingly so on the front end. Time will tell. The only two differences visually between this filler and the one on the original 51’s is that the plunger here is aluminum instead of plastic, and the 601 has a hexagonal nut securing the plunger in place, versus the original which was reverse threaded into the end of the barrel. This requires a special tool to service the original 51’s. this one will require a simple small wrench.

The 601 is made with the same basic dimensions as the original Parker 51, the full size model, not the smaller “debutante” size .The pen is about 140mm capped and 150mm posted. While the original 51 sported a gold nib, this 601 features a stainless steel nib. Both are nail like in their writing attributes – very stiff. But smooth. Very nice writer, actually. I said earlier that the 601 was a knock-off, and it really is.

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Visually, the only two things that don’t look pretty much identical to the original 51 is that the jewel at the top of the cap on the 601 is metal instead of plastic, and the 601 sports an (very useful) ink window located just above the clutch ring.

I’ll state up front, I’m a big fan of the original 51. And having a new modern version available, whose quality seems to be approaching what the original offered, is very, very….very cool to me. Wing Sung, I think deserves a lot of credit here. They are not the first Chinese company to offer knock-off versions of the 51. The “Hero” pen company has been doing it for years, and I have some of their pens. None of those even comes close to the quality of this pen. Cheap, brittle plastic and horrible machining and production tolerances have plagued most of the pens I’ve ordered from Hero. Although I’ve only had this 601 for about 3 weeks, the difference in quality is quite apparent. At $16 dollars US, I’m calling it a winner.

Here’s a quick video on the WingSung 601 to go along with the review.

Finally, here’s a great video review on this pen from a guy named chrisrap52 on YouTube. Chris’s channel is largely to blame for my recent addiction issue collecting Chines pens. He has a great channel, you should check it out.