New bike project hiccup #2

I removed the brake calipers from the CAAD8 frame, but cannot mount them on the Merckx frame.  The reason?  The recessed nut used to attach the rear caliper isn’t long enough for the thicker brake bridge on the carbon frame.  The one for the front caliper might work OK, but the rear one isn’t even close.  I’ve ordered a couple of longer ones, so once they arrive I should be able to mount both brake calipers and then continue with the project.

I can turn the length down on the lathe if they’re too long, but hopefully they’ll just work out OK.  Riiiightt…  That always works for me.

There’s always something you hadn’t considered.

New bike project and hiccup #1

Well, at least a new frame.  I picked up an Eddy Merckx LXM carbon fiber frame a couple of years ago, and now i’m finally getting around to doing something with it.  My plan is to swap the entire Campagnolo group from the CAAD8 frame to the Merckx frame, and along the way to replace the cables/housings, clean up everything, and replace the bar tape as well.  I don’t need many parts for this, mostly consumables like cables and cable guide, plus bar tape.  The existing stem may or may not work with this frame, that will have to wait until it’s actually rideable to make that determination.

Hiccup #1: The bottom bracket shell was English thread, but it appears to have been sleeved to that thread size since all information I could find indicated that it was originally Italian threading.  Also, the shell width was too wide at 70.5mm.  That has to be fixed, since the crankset requires a 68mm shell width.  I wound up at Halcyon Bikes in Nashville, TN, and they took care of facing the shell down to 68mm, and while they had the frame they installed the BB cups and the carbon compact crankset (50/34).  Now that this issue is handled, the rest should go fairly quickly as I have the other bits I need for the swap.

First is to move the brake calipers from the CAAD8 to the Merckx.  next will be the front and rear derailleurs, but I need to take a photo of the cable routing so that I can properly set them up.  next will be the handlebars/stem and I’ll probably leave the brifters mounted exactly where they are.  Wheels are easy enough, and the cables/housings are next.  Finally the seatpost and saddle, and it will be rideable.  I will wait to wrap the bars until I have a few miles, to be sure that shifting and braking are correct before covering up the cables.

My first carbon bike – I’m really interested to see what differences I notice between the stiff alloy CAAD8 and the carbon Merckx.  Time and some miles will tell the tale.


Every Day Carry.  But when you work in a home office, it’s more like EDUAMD.  Every Day Use at My Desk.  I’ve been using several different capless, or retractable nib fountain pens in a daily rotation, and I’ve come to some conclusions as to the one I prefer and why.  Some reasons you may agree with, some you may not.  But if you’re on the fence, you may find some information that helps you to make your own buying decision.

The candidates are:

The Pilot Blue Carbonesque using Diamine Syrah ink is very nice, but definitely heavier and more substantial than the Decimo.  The nib on this pen was custom ground by Indy Pen Dance to their Daily Italic profile, and I really like it.   This is a one-hand pen just like the Decimo, the difference in weight is noticeable.  The clip is larger than the Decimo, but I have no complaints about it and it doesn’t get in the way (for me) while writing.  My writing seems to improve when using this pen – I’m not sure why that is, but it happens every time I use it.

I like the Decimo too, the thinner clip and lighter weight are a noticeable difference between this pen and the others.  The medium nib is, well, medium and very smooth even on less than great paper.  The black Pilot cartridge ink is fine and works fine on the paper I use daily.  This is a one-hand pen – you can pick it up and extend the nib with one hand and it’s ready to write.  Very convenient.  I have had no issues with the nib drying out while in rotation.

The Pilot Fermo is about the same weight as the Blue Carbonesque, but feels a bit thinner.  I have Diamine Imperial Purple ink in this pen right now.  The clip has a different shape, and is not a detriment at all.  I think I prefer the twist mechanism over the click mechanism in the other two Pilots.  Smooth, and the spring retracts the nib by itself once you rotate past the over-center point.  Visually the Fermo has a much smaller cap than the other Pilots, so it does have a different look.  The weight is about the same as the Pilot Blue Carbonesque.

The Lamy Dialog 3 is unique.  I’ve had it about 2 weeks now and the nib is really nice.  Very smooth right out of the box.  No complaints there.  I think I would be happier with a fine nib rather than the medium.  That’s not a fault of the pen or nib.  I will probably have the nib ground to a fine point and then I will enjoy this pen even more.  The ball valve rolling out of the way just prior to the nib extending is still fun to watch, but it is definitely a two-hand task to make the pen ready to write.   It may look different with the untapered cylindrical profile, but it feels good in the hand and writing with it is a pleasure.  I have had no issues with the nib drying out after sitting  for 3 days in the four pen rotation.

So for me, the decision was a tough one – these are all quality pens and I can say without reservation that you would not regret purchasing any of them.  The final two candidates were the Blue Carbonesque with that wonderful nib, and the Fermo with the twist mechanism.  But, for the way I use a pen on a daily basis the Fermo wins.  I could just put the Daily Italic nib in the Fermo and have the best of both, but I think I’ll leave the medium nib in there for now.  For a daily writer the medium nib is a great compromise.

The winner – Pilot Fermo

This may be a bit telling, but I have ordered another Fermo, in dark green color with a fine nib.  Looks like the rotation will go up to 5 days fairly soon.

Stay tuned for a review of the Pilot Fermo with a fine nib.

A dialog about a Dialog

I just received my Lamy Dialog 3 retractable fountain pen today and it’s quite nice in glossy piano black, with a gold and rhodium medium nib.  The nib had some ink on it , but that was expected as Lamy dip tests their pens at the factory before shipping them.

I cleaned the nib and let the nib unit dry.  I’ve decided (for now) to use Diamine ASA Blue ink in the Lamy, that may or may not be the case for the next fill.  Can’t say just yet.

The mechanism is somewhat similar to the Pilot Vanishing Point Fermo,  where the nib is extended for writing by twisting the top (bottom?) section of the pen clockwise.  The “door” to seal the nib and prevent drying out is a ball valve style that rotates 90 degrees to expose or to close the nib section.

The design is minimalist, basically a cylinder with rounded ends, of a constant diameter.  Here’s a photo.

Lamy Dialog 3

The medium nib is quite smooth, literally gliding over the paper.  I haven’t tried any downward pressure while writing, but others have reported the nib is flexible enough for some line variation to make it’s appearance.

Lamy Dialog 3 nib

One other thing i forgot to mention, the pocket clip.  it can be an issue for you, depending on how you hold your pen while writing.  This clip is, by design, less intrusive than the clip on the Pilot standard VP.  The Lamy clip actually retracts into the barrel when the nib is extended to make it less of a bother, and then returns to it’s normal position when the nib is retracted.  Just a refinement that does actually work to make the pen “fit” better.

The nib alone would probably cause this pen to be a “keeper”, but couple that with the retractable mechanism and the clean design, and it becomes a “double-secret” keeper.  Animal House fans will get the reference.

Yet another Vanishing….

Point fountain pen.  Two, actually.  The Decimo and the Fermo.  The Decimo retains the click mechanism to extend the nib, and is a slightly slimmed-down version of the original Vanishing Point.  There are other differences too, the Decimo is noticeably lighter in weight than the VP, and the pocket clip is reshaped, lying closer to the barrel, and slimmer in width.  I don’t find the standard VP pocket clip to be an issue, so the smaller Decimo clip isn’t either.  if the standard VP clip just didn’t work for you, give the Decimo a look – you might find that Pilot has made a retractable fountain pen for you.  This photo shows the original VP and the Decimo – I’ll let you decide which is which based on my description.  Hint – it’s not difficult to tell them apart.

Pilot Vanishing Point (top) and Pilot Decimo (bottom)

The Fermo is more like the original VP, but there are differences here as well.  Weight isn’t one of them, the Fermo and the original VP weigh almost exactly the same.  The clip is reshaped, and is fastened directly to the barrel rather than to the extended cap of the standard VP.  And the big difference, the mechanism for extending the nib in the Fermo is a twist, not a click.  Twist the ribbed end of the pen clockwise, and the nib extends.  Turn it counter-clockwise, and the nib retracts.  Because the pen doesn’t get any shorter when you twist the section, the pen seems larger (and it actually is about a quarter of an inch longer with the nib extended).  On the click VPs, the pen does get a little shorter because the clicker remains in the depressed position while the nib is extended.

Pilot Fermo

All of the Pilot / Namiki Vanishing Point, Decimo, and Fermo models share the same same nib units and converters / ink cartridges.  You can mix and match to your heart’s content.

Stay tuned – the Lamy Dialog 3 is next.

Removeable writing…

A problem comes up from time to time – you just don’t want to write with ink.  There is a really useful invention to solve this and it’s called a pencil.  There are a staggering number of choices available.  This might surprise you, but probably not – I like mechanical pencils.

I have  a Pilot H1005 retractable mechanical pencil that, for some, is the holy grail of mechanical pencils.  The current prices seem to bear this out, since it has long been discontinued.  New or like-new examples sell for over $175, which seems a bit much, since it sold originally for around $15.  But I must admit it is a good design and mine is still going strong after 30 years – has it really been that long?

Pilot H1005

I thought I would try another one, opting to leave the Pilot in the desk drawer.  So I did some reading and found the Uni Kuru Toga which has a unique feature.  As you write with it, the mechanism rotates the lead a few degrees each time you lift it from the paper, so the lead stays sharp.  It’s a very fascinating thing to watch and it isn’t just a marketing gimmick – it actually works.  The price – around $12.

Uni Kuru Toga Roulette

Then I decided to pick up a Pentel Sharp Kerry.  Not a new design but a very popular one.  The cap covers the lead tube when it’s in your pocket, and you just remove it to write.  If you decide to post the cap, the lead advance button on the cap will advance the lead without removing it.  Not particularly fancy, just a good design that has been around for quite a while – with good reason.  The price – around $18.

Pentel Sharp Kerry

My next, and likely my last pencil purchase was a rOtring 800.  This is rOtring’s top of the line pencil, with a retractable tip.  The rOtring 600 is very popular and the primary difference between the 600 and the 800 is the 800’s retractable tip.  It certainly makes it a safer EDC pencil, since it probably won’t impale you like the non-retractable 600 might.  Made from brass, it has a nice feel to it and the balance seems neutral.  This one will be with me for a long time, I’m thinking.

rOtring 800

The Vanishing Point

No, not the sometimes difficult search for the intent of a written article, but a unique type of fountain pen.  One of the drawbacks to using a fountain pen is that the nib will transfer ink to whatever it touches, whether you like it or not.  So most all fountain pens have caps to keep the ink from writing a blob on your shirt when you put the pen in your pocket.

But people being clever (some more than others) have designed a fountain pen that doesn’t need a cap – it’s called “Capless”.  The company Namiki, which is now called “Pilot” has a retractable fountain pen called the Vanishing Point, or Capless, depending on the ad you’re reading.  It has gone through a few iterations since it’s inception, and it is a high quality pen.

How it works is fairly simple.  The nib and ink are a unit that fits inside the pen, very similar to the ink cartridge in a ballpoint pen.  There is a button that pushes the nib unit out of the pen so that you can write with it.  But fountain pen inks are not formulated like ballpoint pen inks, and if left exposed, the nib will dry out.  So the very smart people at Namiki/Pilot designed a little door they call a shutter that is spring loaded to close when the nib is retracted to seal the nib and prevent it from drying out.  Pretty smart, huh?

Pilot / Namiki Vanishing Point – faceted barrel (out of production)

Well, it works.  And it works very well.  The nibs are made from 14k or 18k gold and are very well made, writing very smoothly.  And like most fountain pens, you can have a nibmeister regrind the nib to your exact requirements.  The only drawback to this design is that the mechanism takes up space inside the barrel, so the ink capacity isn’t great.  They also accept ink cartridges, so you can carry an extra cartridge with you and replace an empty one in just a few seconds.

A unique solution to a problem.  Here you can see the nib extended for writing.

Pilot / Namiki Vanishing Point – faceted barrel

Switching nibs…

As you may recall, I have a 1.1mm stub nib in my Vac Mini, and I ordered a flex nib to replace it.  I received the nib a couple of days ago, and it looks fine.  This morning I decided to replace the stub nib with the flex nib.

I emptied the ink from the pen back into the bottle – no reason to waste perfectly good ink.  I rinsed the pen out and then pulled the stub nib along with the feed out of the pen.  I washed the new nib with soapy water, as some nibs have oils on them that cause problems when writing.  Inserting the nib took about 10 seconds.  I refilled the pen with ink, and began writing.

My first impression is that the line width is thicker than I expected, but this could be me subconsciously using downward pressure on the nib while writing.  I can get line width variation easily by adding pressure on the downstroke, so the flex nib is doing just what it is supposed to do.  The loose cannon in this mix is my writing style.  I’ll work on it and see if I stay with the flex nib or go back to the stub.

That’s just one of the nice things about fountain pens – you can easily make changes and find a combination of pen, nib, ink, and paper that you like best.

Esterbrook LJ in Copper Marble

This is a somewhat unique fountain pen.  This was the first fountain pen that allowed you to easily change the nib.  It simply unscrews from the barrel, and a different nib could be used.  You could use a fine point nib for writing a letter, and then change to a broad or stub nib to address the envelope to add some flair to the writing.

These were not expensive pens, relatively speaking, and were made in large quantities.  The ink sac frequently needs to be replaced after many years of use (or lack of use), but that is a fairly easy thing to do.

The colors are unique, and the hardware such as the lever, the clip, and the ring on the cap were made of stainless steel, so there is no plated finish to wear off, and the pen continues to look good even after extensive use.

Because these were made in large quantities, and are so easily repaired, they are popular today and don’t command large prices as many other pens from that era seem to do.  Average prices are in the $20 to $30 range, and the parts to replace the ink sac are a couple of dollars.  They are easy to find, and replacement nibs are easily found as well.

I liked the color of this particular pen, and I will be keeping an eye out for a broad or stub nib for it.

Esterbrook LJ

The latest (oldest) acquisition

Well, it’s my most recent pen purchase, but at the same time it’s the oldest one I have.  A Parker Streamline Duofold in jade green from 1928-1929.  Almost 100 years old and writes beautifully.  I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – craftmanship never fades.

Parker Duofold Jade Green