Storm Dream N°4

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Sunny or cloudy, daytime or night, there is always something worth looking up for. Turn off your television, go outside, and look up.

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#filmsnotdead

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It’s not just a hashtag: there is a renaissance of film photography happening. For proof, see the recent announcement by Kodak that it is bringing back Ektachrome slide film later this year. I am glad to see that Ilford still carries the black & white torch high.

I have been taking photographs as far back as I can remember. From a Polaroid Super Shooter to a Kodak 110 to finally a Nikon, photography has always been a part of my life in one way or another. 

Sure digital is nice. In the age of instant gratification, it’s convenient to see your captured image immediately. I certainly won’t stop using my phone camera, which takes pretty good shots now that I know how to use it. But there’s something to be said for taking time; camera on tripod, take a reading of the light, set your exposure, and *then* click. To develop your own film is easy with black and white; anyone can do it, and it makes your images even more personal. And to slide that paper into the tray and watch your image appear under the safelight…that, my friends, is alchemy.

After about 15 years, I am beginning to shoot film again. I’m finding that little has changed, other than a couple of new developers and that my beloved Agfapan 25 is no more: time to look for a new slow film. And of course Kodachrome is gone, the only colour film I used (and I still have a single 110 Kodachrome slide I took to prove it). Nothing will ever come close to Kodachrome.

I also see that fairly good analog equipment is dirt cheap: I have a feeling that will change with the mirrorless brigade discovering the beautiful and inimitable imperfections of vintage lenses. There are thousands of old screw-mount lenses out there to be had, some for little more than a song.

The darkroom is going up again. The cameras are dusted off and prepped, loaded with film, ready to explore the infinite. It’s like seeing a good friend after many years apart. This old dear here has a belly full of Tri-X, ready to go snag some time.

More to come, I promise.

QuikInk: KWZ Brown Pink

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Today I begin a new series of…not ink reviews. A sample, a photo, a brief description of an ink. There are other reviewers who go scientific, where you can get densitometer readings and such. I’ll just show you what’s what, and give a quick opinion.

Konrad Żurawski is a wizard, an alchemist. Through his company, KWZ, he creates magic for pen and paper. A rainbow of iron gall inks, and entire spectrums of blues, reds, greens, and other colours. Now, when I think of the colours brown and pink, my first thought is how they would be the last two colours I would combine. Leave it to Konrad to prove me wrong. KWZ Brown Pink is a wonderful colour…hints of brown and red, chocolate and wine…I like to call it Black Swan in Polish Roses, as it reminds me of a combination of two inks from another maker. 

Wet and smooth, nice lubrication, fairly quick drying, this instantly became one of my favourite inks. Paper is Staples Sustainable Earth pad, which is great for FP inks. Thin, maybe 15lbs, but very little showthrough and almost no bleedthrough. A lovely paper for seeing shading.

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Kaweco V11: Vintage on a budget

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Nearly identical to its contemporary the Montblanc 32 (c.1962), but about one third the price, the V11 is a wonderfully soft writer that holds a good amount of ink. Vintage Kaweco are wonderful pens, with soft or even flexible nibs. The plating is thick, materials and build quality are rock solid. A very nice writer for $20, I must say.

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If you’re after vintage pens on a budget, have a look around for Kaweco. German eBay is an excellent place to start.

Kaweco Dia 2: Sophisticated, Strong, Sublime

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The name “Kaweco” (or originally “KaWeCo”) is an old and respected one in the world of German stylographica. The original form of the company went under in 1980, and lay dormant until 1995. The name was taken up by the Gutberlet family, and brought back to its former glory. They did this not by pretending to be the same company as the original, like some famous marques, but by honouring Kaweco’s traditions and bringing it into the present at the same time. The Gutberlets continue to introduce new writing equipment, with a flair for the unordinary.

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The Kaweco Dia 2 is a modern interpretation of the company’s historical Dia line of pens. Kaweco produced a ‘Dia’ in some form between the 1930s and early 1960s: “dia” is the word for “day” in most Latin languages, and I imagine this pen was marketed as a pen to use day in, day out. This modern Dia contains the stylings of a 1930s-era model, with the knurled end caps and the distinctive bowed clip. I’ve owned this pen for about six years now, so it’s really time to have a good look at it.

Note: The Dia 2 is the updated version of the modern Dia. The differences are mainly cosmetic, with a differently shaped section, shorter end cap on the barrel, and a gentle swell on the barrel that gives this basic black pen a hint of sexy. And, more importantly, the Dia 2’s cap screws on, where the Dia’s did not (even though it looked like there were threads on the section).

I received this pen as a gift. It came in one of Kaweco’s lovely tins, with the embossed design on the front: this is one pen box that didn’t go into the trash. It could be used as a pencil case, or to store pen-related bits and bobs. I keep the Dia 2 in it when not being used.

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In a nutshell, the Dia 2 is a very well put together pen: fit and finish are excellent. The acrylic used is very high gloss. Perhaps it could be called ‘precious resin’, but I won’t go there. The hardware looks to have a fairly thick plating. The clip is not spring loaded, but has just enough tension to be useful (and not wear a hole in a shirt pocket). There are also the now trademark little Kaweco logos in both ends of the pen. All in all, this pen looks like it cost much more than it did.

The cap screws on and off in just under one complete turn.  While turning, there is very little wobble: tolerances are pretty tight. The section is made of metal, with a turned centre of acrylic laid over it: no slipping or coldness here. The section screws into brass threads fit inside the barrel. It would seem that the barrel is lined with brass along its entire length. It’s certainly thin brass if this is the case, for the entire pen weighs 26 grams (20 grams uncapped). A good friend of mine referred to it as ‘bulletproof’ design. However, like many other high gloss resins (ahem), I feel this one could be on the fragile side. Avoid dropping on floor.

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This combination of metals and acrylic has been fashioned in a way that this is one of the best balanced pens I have tried to date. Very little effort is needed by the hand to keep the pen in writing position. This is probably a good time to mention the length of the pen: 134mm capped, 125mm uncapped, 158mm posted. Quite the jump in length when posted, but even so the pen retains its good balance (I never post, but I have tried it with the Dia 2 and it feels good).

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One nice touch on the cap is on the opposite side of the clip: small script saying “Kaweco Dia”, with “Germany” printed beneath. I had assumed this was merely a stencil, but my friend noted that it is actually stamped or engraved, and filled in quite admirably with white. For a basic black pen with chrome hardware, with the gloss of its materials, the fit and finish, and the very gentle curve of the body, it’s fairly commanding yet has an air of sensuality. Audrey Hepburn in her little black dress comes to mind, or a very well cut tuxedo.

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Now we come to the business end of the Dia 2, the nib. Like all Kaweco’s pens except the Sport Classic and Ice Sport, this one uses the Bock 060, which is a screw-in nib/feed unit.  My pen originally came with an M nib. This particular nib was a dud, the only bad Bock I’ve ever owned. Contact with the dealer and the manufacturer in Germany brought me a new nib within a week, this time a BB nib. And what a lovely nib it is. Smooth, but not overly so: enough feedback to know you are writing on paper and not glass. You can see the design of it in the pics, so I won’t get into that. All nib sizes available are EF, F, M, B, and BB, but only F, M and B seem to be available with the pen: EF and BB can be ordered from various sellers. Kaweco has recently introduced 14k nibs for the Dia 2 and other models taking this handy screw-in nib unit. One could have an entire range of nibs, and easily interchange them as needed.

The Dia 2 is a cartridge-converter pen of the international kind, and a perfectly running one. I know that some would deduct points because it isn’t a piston filler. If it was, the price would be at least double. And personally, I don’t consider piston fillers the be-all and end-all of filling systems: I enjoy changing inks waaaay too much to really use it. My Dia 2 came with a standard Schmidt K1 converter, but there is also a ‘deluxe’ converter available with the Brand name printed on the clear part, and can be taken apart for cleaning. The term ‘deluxe’ here means about €2 online, so not a major outlay.

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Just about the only fault I can find with this pen is that long international cartridges don’t seem to fit. I tried a long Pelikan cart, and as I was screwing the barrel on over it the nib was unscrewing itself out of the section.  I haven’t tried a Waterman long yet, so I can’t speak for those.

The chrome-trim version seems to run between $100 and $120 online: there is also a gold-trim version that costs slightly more. I think for the price, it’s very good value. The Kaweco Dia 2 is a well-made, classy and quietly attractive pen that punches well above its weight.

A Dash of Colour

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Getting slowly back into the swing of things, I thought that on this drab, dreary Monday we could use a dash of colour. I certainly could.

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There’s something about ink that just makes me happy. The colours, since I love colour? The possibilities of using them? The way some inks cling to the sides of the bottle and you see into what makes them tick? Maybe even a little of the bottles themselves, especially funky ones like these?

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What do you think? What do inks do for you?

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Pelikan Edelstein Ink of the Year 2016 ~ Aquamarine

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This is my first Edelstein, and I have to say I’m impressed. What a nice writing ink: it feels like there are little ball bearings making the nib feel smoother than it actually is. Smooth, wet, nice shading, and I’m a sucker for teals and turquoises. Yeah, it’s expensive, and Diamine Eau de Nil is already my One Ink, but this is nice, nice stuff, and I’m glad I have some.

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