the red dragon: penmeester.be urushi & osprey milano
Last night’s rain had finally cooled down the drowsy, hot weather. Now the curtains dance in a cheerful breeze and the sun shines in clear, open skies. As the church’s bell rings the midday, birds sing in the tree in front of the window. A group of kids pass under the window on the way to the city centre. Neighbours chatter in front of their windows. Someone is putting flowers in the pots in front of their front door, a little late. Another gust of wind dances through the house, bringing a fresh chill and perhaps a promise of afternoon showers.
Up until this point in my life, urushi pens were this artisan work that were so inaccessible that I wouldn’t even dream of owning one. Yes, they are beautiful; and yes, I admire the craftsmanship, the skill and patience that goes into making one. I had just accepted the simple truth of not being able to own one at this point in my life, no hard feelings.
Then, I stepped into the Dutch Pen Show and to the table of Penmeester.be. He sold his own urushi work on -as far as I understood- mostly ready-made pens. I looked at his table for a moment, before finally gathering my courage and asking to hold a pen. It was this very pen with its clipless aka-tamenuri body and the little dragon at the end. I also lifted up and inspected some other ones too, all the different textures and bright colours were captivating. Underneath the pen, the price was written on a little card in the pen tray. It was unbelievable. Not like the monster Nakaya’s or Tamenuri Studio, but on par with other turned pens. I was okay with this and really excited about trying to understand what the magic of urushi is. To be fair I was between this one and a much fancier red lacquered one with a large dragon chinkin. I decided for a more under-stated one, since the red lacquer is already pretty fancy. Penmeester.be's logo is a dragon, and therefore this one also has a dragon! What more can a girl want?
The base is an Osprey Milano. Shape is quite comfortable to hold, with a twist to the traditional shape of flat tops. At first, I wasn’t sure about the end part with the small step down, it reminded me of a piston knob. Of course it is not, this is a cartridge/converter pen. In the end, I started liking my fake piston knob and the flat top shape is already one of my favourites. I also wasn’t sure about going without a clip, mostly because I tend to place things straight onto my desk and there is always a risk of them just rolling off. With some extra care -and ninja reflexes- it turned out to be worth it. Without the clip, there is nothing to overshadow the beauty of the lacquer work.
But how does urushi feel? They always say how different it is, and you can’t really understand it without holding one. I mostly agree. It feels like -well- lacquered wood. Imagine the smoothest dining table, with the thickest layer of lacquer on it, polished to reflect the light like a mirror. It’s so smooth, it almost feels soft. Like holding a beeswax candle. I almost want to check my fingers to see if any wax rubs off. Of course, it does not.
The lacquer is perfectly smooth and shiny on the surface, but it is not perfectly even underneath. I don’t know whether urushi is applied with a brush, but the variations of the colours look like brush marks to me like on an impressionist painting. As you turn the pen in your hand, the light catches all of those tones differently, shifting like fish, deep in water.
When I first got this pen, the cap threads were a little tight and squeaky, probably from the lacquer over them. During the short time I used the pen, it completely disappeared and the cap became much easier to operate. It probably helped that I used it quite often in the past few weeks. Sadly for my other 20 inked pens, it’s impossible to say no to the gleaming cap when I open my pen roll. I really need a long cleaning day in the near future.
I am also impressed by the nib. I had put the converter that came with the pen away because it was a little stinky, and used a different one for a while. That gave some flow inconsistencies. Since I put its own threaded converter back in, it has a super smooth, wet line that’s slightly thicker than what I would expect from a fine nib. It’s currently inked with Diamine Red Dragon, I thought the name fit it perfectly.
In the end, I’ve been enjoying this pen immensely, especially the subtle tactile difference between it and different acrylic pens. Even after the initial disbelief and excitement of “I have an urushi pen!” wore off, I love using it. It also encourages me to use more red inks, which is fairly new for me. The eternal reign of blue and green inks is over in this house, long live the red dragon.
The colour in the photographs didn’t show up too good because there is no sun today. In this post or on my Instagram you can see how bright the colour is much better. I guess the gleam blinded the camera. The camera didn’t focus nicely on the first photograph, but it showed to colour, so I decided to keep it.
Thank you for reading! I have a small question for you. What pen & ink would you take for a long road trip? I was thinking about a Lamy Safari or a TWSBI ECO with a small ink bottle, but perhaps iron gall is a better alternative as beach trips are certainly scheduled. The most challenging part is that it will be the only pen and ink I’ll use for the next two months. I will be writing fairly lot -competition preparation and journaling mostly- I need something comfortable. It also has to be indestructible and easily accessible so I won’t cry if I ever lose it. I thought a little challenge would be fun during the holidays. It also really is an attempt to pack light.