A Trio of Kaweco Sport Pens - AL Raw, Brass and Stonewashed Review
Few fountain pens come to mind that are designed with utility as the main priority. Sure, anyone can slap a conductive stylus tip to a pen and call it a multi-purpose writing instrument, but I'm talking about on-the-go convenience - the ability to slip in your pocket, throw in a bag, attach to a pen loop, and, at a moments notice, be able to pop-in a cartridge and get writing wherever, whenever.
The Kaweco Sport is based on a design that hasn't changed all that much from when it was initially conceived in 1935. It is built with convenience and portability in mind. This no-nonsense, German design has a number of variations, including the Classic, Ice, Aluminum Body, Swirling Acrylic Resin (ART Series), the new Stonewashed Aluminum and Solid Brass (also new). In short, the Sport never rests on its laurels and attempts to excite and reinvigorate this 80-year-old line of writing instruments.
The Packaging The AL-Sport and Brass Sport pens are packaged in a little Kaweco tin box, which has a molded interior that allows for you to store up to two Kaweco Sport pens. The metal tin is sturdy and convenient to keep around to store or carry your pens around in lieu of a leather pen case. You can also store one Kaweco and a few ink cartridges to prevent running out of ink when you're out-and-about.
The Finishes For this review, we're looking at three charming finishes - The AL Sport Raw Aluminum, the AL Sport Black Stonewashed and the Brass Sport.
From left to right : Raw Aluminum, Stonewashed, Brass
Both the Raw Aluminum and Brass Sports are polished with a reflective finish. They are said to develop a natural patina over time from wear. Every little scratch and smudge shows up on the body and barrel of the pen. For purposes of this review, I've included a AL Sport Raw Aluminum fountain pen that I've written with for at least a year and a Brass pen that is brand new. The difference is quite visible, especially in the front section, which is the most handled part of the pen. The front section has developed a "frosted" look, taking in all the oils from my fingers and saturating the once-gleaming section.
The Stonewashed Aluminum finish is essentially a black AL Sport that has been distressed or pre-worn, much like a pair of vintage denim jeans. Kaweco knows there is a charm to showing their product as already hard-worn. The textured, grittiness of the pitted black metal has a retro feel, as if it traveled the world and has seen it all.
Filling Up the Kaweco Sport
As the Sport model is a pocket-sized pen, the filling method of this pen is limited to either international sized ink cartridge or the Kaweco Squeeze converter. The drawback to either method is the small ink capacity. The Kaweco squeeze converter seems to offer the smaller amount of ink between the two. If you don't mind changing ink colors very often, then ink capacity isn't a big concern for you. For those who are looking for maximum ink capacity, eyedropper conversion is not recommended on the aluminum or brass pens.
The ink cartridge fits in as you would expect a normal ink cartridge to operate. Simply unscrew the section from the barrel, remove the ink cartridge that arrives with the pen to start, then plug in the cartridge to the front section, pushing until the cartridge pierces and snaps into place.
The squeeze converter is a tricky little device. Most fountain pen users are experienced with a twist converter that can usually fill more than 3/4 of the converter's capacity. The squeeze converter, despite repeated squeeze attempts, usually fills about halfway. At 2:10, the video demonstrates how to fill using the squeeze converter.
To operate - insert the squeeze converter into the front section like you would with the ink cartridge. Then, dip the nib and feed up to where the section starts. Squeeze the bladder of the converter evenly and fully. Imagine your fingers are like the pressure bar of a lever filler pen. You want to pinch flat and fully on the entire length of the bladder to force all the air out of the bladder. You should see bubbles appear in the ink after a good squeeze. Releasing the bladder should result in the appearance of ink to rise up at the bottom of the bladder. Squeezing about 4 or 5 times should get to the halfway point, which is "as good as it gets" with this converter.
Taking the Sports for a Spin
Now that we're inked up, let's get writing! All three pens are fitted with the Kaweco stainless steel nib, made in Germany with an iridium tip. All Sport pens are available as an extra-fine, fine, medium and broad writing point. Goldspot offers additional replacement Kaweco nibs that are compatible for the sport. They are easily interchangeable by unscrewing them from the front section. The nib unit housing can be further disassembled by pulling the nib and feed with your thumb and forefinger.
The Brass sport has a factory fine nib. The Stonewashed has a medium. The Raw aluminum Sport has an extra-fine, but as you will see in the handwriting shots, it looks more like the factory medium. That's because I've adjusted & tuned it and you'll understand why shortly.
The nib is not my favorite steel. When I had the extra-fine initially, I experienced flow issues and a bit of scratchiness that made the Kaweco unpleasant to write with. As we experience the customer service calls in relation to these items, I can corroborate that other writers encountered the same issue. Writing with the Brass and Stonewashed, I felt the same way.
Out of the box, the Kaweco nib writes dry and has a high degree of feedback, which some may consider "scratchy." The flow isn't quite there with either the fine or medium. Knowing how I was able to tune the extra-fine to my liking, this isn't quite a big deal with me, but I know that it would effect other people's decision about this item. A below-average nib is sometimes acceptable at the $10-$40 price range, but the $80-$100 level asks for more quality right out of the gate.
I can say that, once I adjusted the extra-fine nib to provide more flow and smoothed it out, the pen has become part of my rotation quite frequently. The balance and weighty feel of the pen with the cap posted is quite pleasant. Although the pen is 4.05" (103mm) closed, the cap posts to extend the pen out to 5.20" (132mm). The 22g weight of the aluminum finishes has significant feel in the hand, but the Brass (44g) weighs as much as the both of them together. If you're really looking for a pen that has major heft, the AL Sport brass is the way to go.
A Few Choice Words
Writing Quality : The stainless steel nib on the Kaweco Sport isn't the greatest right out of the box. They could use some adjusting and smoothing. Comparing it with other German stainless steel in this price point, this nib grades below average. (grade C)
Aesthetic Quality : Kaweco has taken a simple pen design and made it a luxury writing instrument by using new materials and techniques for each finish. The result is an item that looks great and matches with your personality and taste. (grade A)
Utility : Kaweco built the Sport around the idea of portability and taking your writing on-the-go with a pocket-sized profile that accepts cartridge or converter. The faceted sides prevent rolling off your desk. The optional clip is useful as well. It's hard not to include this pen as an everyday carry item (EDC). (grade A+)
Price : At the $80 - $100 price point, these Kaweco Sport pens are right at that sweet spot for most pen buyers who want to write with a classy fountain pen. Considering the weight in-hand, they do give the impression of being more valuable. (grade A-)
Final Grade : A Kaweco, although it may not be well known as other German pen makers like Lamy and Pelikan, is a brand that is trying to earn its way into the hearts and minds of fountain pen enthusiasts. Building off of the uniqueness of their Sport design, these new finishes bring positive attention to their brand. Personally, I'm looking forward to see what is to come from Kaweco. Now, if they can only figure out a way to make a small converter that works better than the squeeze...