I didn't think that I had an inner hipster, but recently I have been hunting for small artisan companies that hand make fountain pens and either ordering interesting pens from them or going the completely custom route. My interest in the bigger name brands such as Pelikan or OMAS has wained and instead I am spending my money at companies like Edison pens or Newton pens instead. I love the craftsmanship and attention to detail, the personal service and knowing that I can get exactly what I want.
United Inkdom recently ran a meta review of the Fosfor Bangalore and then decided to give it away to someone in the UK, so here I am with another shiny pen. It is handcrafted on a lathe in Pune (India) by Manoj out of a cast polyester resin that he makes himself.
Polyester resins are relatively easy to make, typically you take a clear resin solution to which you add a catalyst (typically MEKP, an organic peroxide) to make it set. If you want to colour the resin you add pigments before the catalyst and ensure that you mix it in properly. To make swirls or marbled effects you mix multiple coloured resins together as you pour them into the mould in a swirly pattern. For layered colours you need to let each layer partially set (with cellophane on the top to keep the surface of each layer nice and shiny) for ~12 - 24 hours before mixing and adding the next master batch. The longer you leave it the cleaner the layer colours will be separated, for a smoother gradient you need to pour the layers at the same time so they mix slightly but not completely. The more smoothly you pour your polyester master batches into the mould the less chance of air bubbles forming.
Cast polyester resins will typically have a barcol hardness of 35-40 making them relatively hard and suitable for use on the lathe. Another commonly used material for turned pens is acrylic, but this needs to be moulded rather than poured, so is less easy to work with without some specialist kit, for comparison the barcol harness of acrylic is typically 45-50 making it less likely to be damaged by abrasion than a cured polyester resin. Whilst turning polyester blanks you need to make sure that you keep them cool, above 70C they will typically start to soften and melt. With all this in mind, after plenty of trips too and from work my Fosfor still looks good as new, so it should hold up pretty well.
This pen is polarising in looks, the colours and swirl patterns are fascinating to look at and whilst I love the appearance of the pen I can understand why many people who have seen the pen think it is ugly. What cannot be disputed however is how amazingly well crafted the pen is. The resin is polished to within an inch of its life and the tolerances are amazingly tight. The cap is almost perfectly cylindrical and if anything is a bit chunky, the lack of a clip on the pen limits its practicality somewhat but I cannot say that I miss having one on this pen. The body of the pen has a nice sweep that makes it feel great in the hand, perfectly balanced with a good weight behind it. It is a large pen and with the chunky cap is a bit ungainly whilst posted, I would avoid doing so as even with big hands the pen is long enough unposted.
The filling options are either via standard international cartridges or via a decent converter that came with the pen. The screw threads connecting the barrel to the grip are tight and numerous so it would eyedropper well with a bit of silicone grease, it is however an opaque pen which would make it difficult to know how much ink is left until it stops writing. I filled it (under advisement) with Cult Pens Deep Dark Orange made by Diamine and this is where I fell in love with the pen. The medium steel two tone JoWo nib (on the Fosfor website it notes that they normally have Schmidt nibs) writes beautifully with a nice smooth lay down but with enough feedback to ensure accuracy. It is a reasonably wet writer which adds to the great feel of this pen and combined with the great balance in hand makes me really enjoy the experience. It is however a session writing pen rather than a note taker, there are lots and lots and lots of screw threads on the cap of the pen! This means that when you want to use the pen it will take a while before you are ready, it could be annoying but a partial capping works fine if you don't need to write for a few minutes.
The value proposition of a Fosfor pen is quite frankly amazing. The level of craftsmanship involved in making this pen is amazing, the finish looking as good as an Edison even if the design is not as well refined. The pens available direct from Fosfor come in at between $75 and $95USD plus P&P including a rather interesting triangular shaped barrel pen, considering how long it will take to craft these pens and how well they write this is phenomenal.
According to the website Manoj is happy to do custom work, so this makes it really easy for me to recommend buying one of these pens. I look forward to using this for many years to come and am very happy that I was randomly selected to win the pen in the first place.
United Inkdom: Fosfor Bangalore Meta Review