Review: Schon DSGN Ultem Fountain Pen
Our first Pensplainer product review comes from Lisa Millraney. Lisa is a speech pathologist by training and a writer by inclination. Besides pens, she is fond of crafting, travel, reading and gardening. She lives in Tennessee in an ivy-encrusted cottage. Her favorite pen varies with her mood: sometimes it’s a Sailor 1911, sometimes it’s a Jinhao Shark. You can find Lisa’s blog at theroseofthewind.com; you can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Ian Schon of Schon DSGN kindly loaned me one of his brand new Ultem fountain pens to take for a test drive. This is my first review for Pensplaining, and to say I am excited is putting it mildly! (waves to readers)
Unboxing was like opening a wee treasure chest. Unexpected little surprises spilled out, including a Write Notepads notebook with the Schon DSGN logo and some stickers and info cards. (May I say the art of Pocky, the Schon mascot, posing with Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers mascot, is just glorious, and needs to be a sticker if the Flyers will allow it.) The Ultem comes in its own little plastic storage box with cutout foam to cradle and protect it.
The frosted resin has a terrific feel in my hand. It’s not textured, exactly, but it does feel different and nicer to me than the usual slick surface of most pens. Amber is the first and, at the moment, only color the Ultem comes in, but I bet in the future the selection will expand. (Yes, barrel color matters to me. I’m a sucker for a pretty pen, though not so much that I let that override my common sense. No matter how pretty it is, if a pen doesn’t perform pleasingly, I walk away.) The cap posts securely. I’m always a bit paranoid about a posted cap falling off, and that’s one thing I adore about my Pocket 6: the cap screws on and isn’t going anywhere.
The Ultem fountain pen comes with a converter, which is fortunate for me. I know part of the idea behind the Ultem concept, with the O-rings and all, is to be able to eyedropper it and have a considerable quantity of ink ready to roll. After a traumatic experience with a leaky eyedropper pen, I can’t force myself to give that particular technique another spin just yet.
Ultem vs. Pocket 6
I love my Pocket 6. It’s so tiny and easy to slip into any small space to carry, and then posts to normal-ish size. That’s double-edged, of course, because it only takes cartridges, and sometimes I find I have to play with a fountain pen a bit to get the ink flowing. Squeeze the cartridge, floss the nib, cap the pen and set it someplace upside down for a few minutes, whatever. My Pocket 6 already had a Monteverde Napa Burgundy cartridge in it, so for maximum contrast, I inked the Ultem with one of my favorite old reliable inks, Waterman Mysterious Blue. Happily, as previously noted, the Ultem does have a converter, so the only ‘issue’ is the universal sign of a fountain pen enthusiast: inky fingers!
That said, on to the actual mechanics of comparison. Size-wise, the Ultem is bigger than the Pocket 6 when both are closed. Posted, the Pocket 6 is a tad longer than the opened but unposted Ultem. When both are posted, the Ultem retakes the lead. My hand is probably about average for a female, and both pens seem to sit well in my grasp. I really like the way the grip section on the Ultem dips in just a hair; my index finger drops right into that little groove and makes writing at length feel very comfortable. It’s incredibly lightweight for a full-sized pen, feeling no heavier than the Pocket 6 to me.
The Writing Experience
As for how the Ultem writes: This nib is listed on the website as a Jowo #6, and marked M for medium. (My Pocket 6 has a Bock, and though I don’t see a size indication, it writes a little finer than the Jowo M on the Ultem.) The Ultem is a very smooth writer; the ink flows well, but it isn’t a firehose. The nib feels firm on the paper, though not scratchy. It’s really well tuned, too. I didn’t have to turn the pen this way and that, or fiddle with it to hit a sweet spot for optimal performance.
On the whole, I really like the SchonDSGN Ultem pen. Highly recommended!
(Schon DSGN provided this product at no charge to Pensplaining for review purposes.)