Thursday, March 17, 2016

Review: Manu Propria Bô Medium Sakuragawa Fountain Pen

Thank you to Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery for loaning me this pen to review! I somewhat nervously am giving it a test.
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ABOUT

Body Material: Ebonite, Urushi
Trim: None
Posts: No
Cap: Threaded
Length (capped): 180.0 mm/7.08''
Length (uncapped nib-end): 165.0 mm/6.49''
Length (posted): N/A
Barrel Diameter: 17.0 mm/0.67''
Section Diameter: 12.1 - 13.0 mm/0.47'' - 0.51''
Nib material: 18KT Gold JoWo
Weight (all): 42 g
Weight (cap): 12 g
Weight (body): 30 g
Fill type: Cartridge/Converter
Price: € 1850,00
Where to buy: Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery

PACKAGING
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This Bô Medium Sakuragawa is elegant in a strange way, and so is its packaging. It's not too small, but it's not excessive. It's useful, easy to keep, and it makes sense. It comes with a certificate of origin, to confirm the pen is made from ebonite, that it is coated with Japanese Urushi lacquer, and that it is handmade by Martin Paul. It has a two-year guarantee against any manufacturing defect. This certificate is not signed, but yours will be should you purchase one from Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery.
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The box is long, since this is a large pen. It's not too big - it accommodates the pen perfectly. It is a hard, dark grey box with a bit of a linen-like texture. The top is marked: MANVPROPRIA FOUNTAIN PENS MADE IN SWITZERLAND, along with the logo. The bottom of the box fits inside the top; flush and snug.

Inside, the base is velvety and black. There is a cotton ribbon holding the pouch in place. The pouch is long, cream-colored, and quite textured. It's a bit padded, and there is a button to close it. I don't feel like there is a bunch of wasted space or excessive material, and I appreciate that. I think a soft buffing cloth would have been a great thing to include, given the price of the pen, but I do like the little pouch it came with. An ebonite/Urushi pen should be stored this way, after all!
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Gloomy outside - note the colors.
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Much more light and the sun was shining - it's like a different pen!
APPEARANCE

I had no idea what to expect with this pen. I'm familiar with ebonite and Urushi lacquer, but this pen is fascinating.
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This is a long fountain pen with a round cap and barrel, slightly wider near the ends, and flat at the top and bottom. There is no trim to break up the intended appearance of the pen - unmarked finial, no clip, no center band. The section is round and matches the rest of the pen. It tapers slightly and flares before the nib.
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Bô means "stick", which is what this pen is supposed to look like. Between the shape and the Sakuragawa-nuri Urushi technique, it is supposed to look like the bark of the cherry tree. This technique imitates the color and surface texture of a cherry tree bark. The colors are deep red, deep brown, creamy brown, some black, and shades in between. Ebonite and Urushi lacquered pens are hard to describe. They really need to be seen and felt to get it.
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I'm fascinated by the finish of this pen. It actually looks like bark, and if you run your fingers over it, it feels like it. In sunlight, it looks like the deep layers are glowing. It's an exquisite technique and it was well executed.
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I feel like this is more of a work of art than a pen. Rather, it's a work of art first, then it's a pen. When I first saw this in the box, it was gloomy and grey out. The light can change the pen's luster and glow. I was underwhelmed. The more time I spent with it, the more I saw it in different light settings, the more it grew on me. One day, the sun hit it, and it's like the pen lit up, and the entire technique just clicked and I really appreciated the colors, shades, and glow. It's hard to describe. Look at the pictures.
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This is one neat, unique pen.

NIB & PERFORMANCE

This is a #6 medium nib, in 18KT yellow gold. It has a single slit and a round breather hole. The top is engraved with 18K-750 M, and nothing else. It's very bright and shiny, but it looks a little bare.
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It performs quite well - it's smooth, wet, but not gushing, and a little soft. I found it a bit skippy on very smooth paper, but for the most part, it performed quite well on most papers. Overall nib performance was pleasant, although I'm not sure how many people are interested in this type of pen for its nib.
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It came with a Schmidt-branded converter, which isn't the most amazing thing to look at, but it does the job just fine.
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IN HAND

There is no clip. That would really have thrown off the look of the pen.
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The section is okay, comfort-wise. I found it a little thick, but I think it was so noticeable because the barrel thickness spread my grip too much, and I had to grip extra tight to control the pen. As such, I ended up shifting my grip lower to "get away from"the thickness of the barrel, Unfortunately, then I ended up gripping the ridge, and that bit into my fingers.  Obviously, the  Medium size is a bit too large for me. At least it isn't slippery.
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Unposted, this is a long pen at 165 mm. It's not uncomfortable heavy, but it's long, thick, and not very ergonomic.  No issues in short writing sessions, but I really felt it after awhile. The cap does not post.
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Again, I'm not sure how many people would buy this seeking the most comfortable pen ever. This is a work of art, and it has a nib. That's how I look at it, because the shape and design isn't really one of comfort for me.

PROS & CONS
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OVERALL

This was kind of a tough pen to review, because I didn't pick it, so it's not necessarily my taste. Manu Propria creates other pens I'm more interested in, like the Shibui Standard Aka Ishimeji, or the Shibui Standard Dô Ishimji, particularly for the shape and comfort. There is obviously an incredible amount of time, effort, skill, and craftsmanship behind the maknig of this pen. It's well made, it looks and feels wonderful, in terms of material. The nib is pleasant, but I think having a Manu Propria-branded nib and converter would be a huge plus.

This isn't a pen the typical pen lover would buy, I think. Not because it's not awesome, but because it costs an arm and a leg. I appreciate what it must have taken to create the pen, but the shape and finish is very particular.

What do you think? Is this something you'd go for?
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This pen was loaned to me for this review. I was not compensated monetarily for my review. Everything you've read here is my own opinion. There are no affiliate links.

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