The last pen post I made, mentioned something about understated style and elegance, well, let’s, er, forget about that today shall we? Last year, I took a stroll (about six hours worth, but still a stroll), through Scriptus the Toronto Pen Show. Amongst the highlights of the day was bumping into the lovely Ana Reinert of the Well-Appointed Desk. We had kind of been introduced previously through blog posts, some very kind words from Ana around the time of the death of my mother, and earlier in the day, when I disturbed her, Brad and Mike from the Pen Addict, in Starbuck’s… sorry once again guys.
This time, when we bumped into each other, Ana seemed genuinely keen to see what I had been been buying at the show. I opened up the Laban 325 Burgundy Swirl, which I’ve also seen called the Laban Latte Burgundy Swirl, and the Laban 325 Cambridge Burgundy Swirl. For naming, we’ll go with the Laban model 325, with burgundy cap and swirl barrel; which is what Goldspot Pens call it, where it currently retails for about $112 US.
The ever-diplomatic Ms. Reinert needs to come up to Canada again and play some poker. I may have mis-read her, but I do believe she went a bit Ms. Fountain Pen Manners on me, and for a second or two, I think her poker-face slipped. She didn’t quite say, “Wow! Bless its heart.” But I think she might have got there in the end. This is not a pen of understated elegance. At a hair under 13cm long from tip of nib to finial, and weighing 34g, this is the largest pen in my collection. It kind of reminds me of my days as a safari park ranger, loading .458 caliber rounds into large-animal-stopping firearms. If you shot a rhino with this, well, you’d get ink all over the rhino, and probably make it rather cross; it’s only a pen after all, but you get the idea.
This is not a small pen, nor is it understated or that elegant really. It’s a bit gaudy, but I rather liked the burgundy, swirly resin, and the big Jowo, medium, steel nib wrote like a dream. The gold trim is where the gaudiness steps in, especially on the cap. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
I picked the pen up from the thoroughly fascinating Dr. Shirinian and his equally fascinating partner Noémi Shirinian, after circling their table for a while and eyeing the display. Dr. Shirinian is Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, where he was previously the head of department. He’s a fairly prodigious author, and amongst his titles are two books which I have been lucky enough to read since we met last year: Survivor Memoirs of the Armenian Genocide (ISBN 0-9535191-4-7; Taderon Press: Reading, England, 1999. Now out of print), and Motion Sickness: A Memoir (ISBN 978-0-920266-49-6), which, amongst so much more, describes his parents’ experience as orphan survivors of the Armenian Genocide (1914-1923), who became new Canadians in the 1920s. He and Noémi could fill a dozen blog posts by themselves, so I’ll just leave it there, and recommend his books instead.
The Laban 325 just took my eye, rather like walking into a meat-hook. It has impact—not always in the best taste, but definite impact.
Laban doesn’t hold back on their gold trim. The cap badge/logo being a particular highlight of what, back in the UK, we might call Del-Boy Jewellery.
The cap band carries a little more decoration, with Laban branding around the bottom.
But it was the swirly barrel that really got my attention. I had just managed to get myself a bottle of Diamine Ancient Copper ink, which had been out of stock at the wondrous Wonder Pens for a while, and I knew immediately that the ink was going to be a perfect match for this Taiwanese heavyweight.
My lighting and my photographic skills—referred to by great photographic artists as la merde école de la photographie—really do not do the patterning justice. But I thought it was pretty, and I’m glad I took it home.
What Does It Write Like?
I gave it a try at Dr. Shirinian’s table, and I was sold. It has a big, beautifully smooth, medium, steel, Jowo nib, in a two-tone finish, with some attractive scroll-work. Because simple elegance is not the name of the game here.
The markings, from the top of the nib are 3952, which—in true fountain pen tradition—stands for the height of Mt. Yushan, the highest mountain in Taiwan; the Laban brand name; GERMANY for where the Jowo nib is manufactured; and the nib size M.
Writing with this pen is effortless, and simply a joy.
In fact, Liz from Wonder Pens caught me settling down at a Toronto Library table to fill my pen before I even left the show. I don’t usually use A4 paper for writing samples for the blog, but on this occasion I just couldn’t help myself. I had to keep on writing.
The ink flowed beautifully, and wrote as smoothly as I could ever wish for straight out of the box. There was some nice line variation if I was firm—but I’m usually not.
Just the right amount of feedback, and a lovely, rich, medium line… a little broad for a medium, but that’s what you expect from western nibs anyway. In all, I was super-impressed.
This isn’t a pen for everybody. It’s big, a bit brash, has lots of gold bits, and would not slow down a charging rhinoceros one bit… unless it was a particularly refined rhino. In fact, I sometimes wonder why I bought it, or haven’t passed it on. Then I write with it again, and I smile to myself and carry on writing. I love this pen… but I’m a little embarrassed by it, and have never taken it out to write with at university. Does that make me a fountain pen snob? But, again, the pen loop on my Traveller’s Notebook has stretched a bit, and other pens fall out of it, so I’ve been forced to carry the Laban 325 in the big pen loop… and I love it. What will I do when the pen loop has stretched even further I wonder?