Okay, so they invented this thing called Black Friday. Did you get the memo? Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be drawn in, but apparently 2020 is not a normal year. You got that memo, right? Anyway, Black Friday… invented… not my type of thing… then I watched this video on YouTube wherein some bloke had a pen by a company I’d never heard of which is based in Scotland and he rather liked the pen, so I thought I’d swing by the website and take a look. Turns out they had got the memo about Black Friday and decided to reduce their pens. Well, one thing led to another, and I ended up with a Namisu Orion Aluminium in the blue finish. (If you click here you can see my gallery of photos, the scanned images of the writing comparison, and the website details of the pen which I copied out).
Overall, I’m happy to say here and now that I like this pen, although I am still at the first impressions stage. I do have a few thoughts to share, both positive and negative. I think the the biggest positive (apart from looks and we wouldn’t be so superficial as to mention those, would we?) is the manufacturing quality – this pen feels well-made. The powder-coating (I presume it is powder-coated, it feels powder-coated) on the aluminium body is flawless as far as I can see, everything screws together with fine alignment and no jankiness. If you feel so inclined, you can unscrew the nib unit from the grip section and then the nib and feed pull out of the housing, meaning it will be very easy to disassemble for deep cleaning. It came with a Schmidt Standard International converter which I wasn’t expecting, but should have been because it says so in the product details, and I’m very impressed with that. Of all the converters I have ever used, this one fits reassuringly well in place and takes a good strong pull to remove. I was so impressed with the fit in the Orion that I tried it out in a Waterman pen as well, with the same result. I would definitely look at these for adding to any pens that take an International Standard cartridge and aren’t supplied with a converter.
The design is a departure from my normal choices on a number of scores. It’s my first clipless fountain pen, and my first with a #6 nib which seems significantly larger than my existing nibs. Larger doesn’t necessarily equal better and, of course, it is the line thickness which is the main determining factor in any single nib. This does seem to be a pretty “true” extra-fine nib and I’ve no complaints on that score. The cap is very small because this pen is not designed with what we would normally recognise as a “grip section”; instead, the upper part of the body serves as the grip section. This is by no means a unique or even highly unusual design, but it is the first of its type that I have owned. I must admit it was one of the factors that made me opt for the Orion over Namisu’s other offerings. In practice, it does feel quite different to hold (I find I’m shuffling the pen in my fingers before I start writing) and I think it will take a while for me to decide whether it’s nice or not quite so nice and also to work out how much the larger nib is contributing to the feeling that I am gripping the pen much further away from the paper than usual. More surprisingly, this is the first pen I’ve owned with a screw-cap. I have toyed with the idea of buying a screw-cap pen, but they are less common at the price-point I like to pay, plus I’ve wondered whether I would find them an annoyance rather than a good idea. Thus far, I don’t find it’s significantly different to pulling off a cap. Whilst on many screw-cap designs the threads sit between the grip section and the body of the pen, the Orion’s design means that the threads are at the very end of the body, just under the nib, and therefore away from the area where you might feel them whilst you’re writing. I think it’s a nice design detail. Finally, a small point, although significant if you are gifting a pen, is that the box it came in is a very nice design, all cardboard and stylishly minimal.
Which all count as positive points and I wanted to emphasise them before I picked up on a couple of slight niggles. The first was bewilderment over whether the pen had actually been posted to me. I opted for standard delivery of 3-5 days, and noted the website’s warning that it may take longer over the Black Friday sale period. I ordered the pen on Sunday and received an e-mail on Monday saying it was on its way which I took as meaning it had been dispatched from the design firm. However, following the link to my order on the website, I noted that it showed the order was being prepared and that I would receive an e-mail to say when it was dispatched. A Royal Mail tracking number was provided and simply stated they had been advised of the package, but were awaiting receipt of it. Neither of these pieces of information changed at all through the week and were saying the same thing at eight o’clock Saturday morning. This was no big deal, but it did mean I was surprised when a Royal Mail delivery arrived Saturday lunchtime with the pen! In defence of Namisu, I will point out that they provide an alternative tracking service through something called Shop for which they need your phone number and I didn’t bother with that because I thought the Royal Mail tracking would suffice.
Also on the subject of information, I find the website rather vague on the country of manufacture of their products, and that is rather a conspicuous omission given how much detail they provide about components. They are very up-front about the nibs being manufactured by Bock in Germany, and the Schmidt converters are also German; it would be nice to know if the pens are fully manufactured in Germany and Namisu is a British/Scottish branding applied post-manufacture, whether they are designed in Scotland and then manufactured elsewhere, or if they are designed and constructed in Scotland using components sourced elsewhere. It would also be good if there was some kind of information included with the pen itself – the absence of even a single sheet of paper folded inside the presentation box explaining the brand or pen seemed a little odd. All that being said, I get the impression it’s not a brand you are just going to stumble across as a fountain pen novice and therefore it is safe to assume you’re likely to know everything you need to know.
That leads to the slightly more serious, although by no means particularly dire, issue I had with the pen which is that the feed seemed misaligned during my initial examination. (For my non-fountain pen using friends, the feed is the little plastic thingy that sits behind the metal nib and channels the ink to the tip of the nib.) It seemed, to the naked eye, just a little bit further towards the tip of the nib than I’d expect and perhaps a shade lopsided – hardly more than a hair’s breadth, though. I inked it up anyway, and it wrote, but as I was copying the website details for my records, I noticed that it quickly dried out and needed a shake to get the ink flowing again. After a page, I removed the converter, disassembled the nib unit and reassembled it with the feed just a teeny tiny bit lower. From then, the ink flow has been absolutely splendid so I feel that there was indeed a little misalignment going on which is a further indication that this pen is going to suit someone with experience rather than a beginner.
My only other question is whether I am going to find the pen comfortable to use and that is most surely a personal preference which no amount of attention to detail in the manufacture can have the slightest influence over. I should also point out that the price point of the pen is really good. Even with the minor issues regarding the feed and the lack of information, the full retail price of £40.00 + P+P is incredibly reasonable for this pen: the design and the execution make it look and feel like a much higher-priced product. And I bought it at a 30% discount, which makes it a steal. In fact, at the price I paid it seems churlish to even mention any negatives, but I do think it’s important to point out if something might stump a casual user or be off-putting to someone outside a particular hobby. To relate it to the hobby of knitting, the issues I noticed with this pen would, at most, be the equivalent of buying some yarn and it having several knots in it – nothing that stops you happily using it, but it just takes it down a notch from perfection.
Here is the Namisu Orion with the rest of Clan Bluepen. Whilst I have a constant urge to mix the colours up, and it was quite tough to resist the cherry-red aluminium option this time, I have decided that if I’m going to collect pens then I’m going to make it a highly cohesive collection. Specifically, it is going to be a collection in shades of blue. When pens are available in a lot of colours, it is always the blue that pierces my heart, however lovely the other colours are. When I want to stray from the blues, I have my Waterman Hémisphère Rose Cuivre with its rosy barrel, my Lamy LX in its splendid Rose Gold livery, and my dad’s Parker 51 for those black and gold occasions.
One final point I’m going to make today regards the ink. I’m trying to use up the little bottle I have of Diamine Majestic Purple and I inked up the Orion with it so I could do a direct writing comparison between that and the Lamy Studio which I also have inked with the Majestic Purple. It was at this point that I noticed how badly this ink is bleeding through some papers – a quality I’ve noticed before with Diamine inks and which put me off them for a while. I can’t say I’d noticed it much with this purple, but suddenly I am. It’s not just the Orion that is laying it down too heavily, it is bleeding through when I write with the Lamy too. Today I will empty the purple ink and try something else in the Orion to see what I think.
I hope this has been interesting, even if you’re not a huge fan of stationery. The knitting continues and there will be an update mid-week.