Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator Fountain Pen Review

I usually have a good grip on my pen habit, but the Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator was a complete impulse buy. I’ve always been fascinated by the Franklin Christoph Pocket 40, but I’ve never been able to find it in stock, and I wanted something with a bit more ink capacity at a more affordable price. I stumbled upon the Opus 88 on Pen Chalet, and it ticks many of the Franklin Christoph boxes but has a massive ink capacity and is significantly less expensive.

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The Opus 88 Koloro is a big pen, so small hands beware. I have to admit that I’m not typically a fan of large pens, and the size did give me pause prior to ordering. I’m happy to say that I really enjoy the size of the pen. Yes, it’s large, but the material gives it a lighter feel. Since the pen doesn’t post, which may be a dealbreaker for some, it’s not absurdly long in the hand and still rests comfortably in the web of my fingers.

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Demonstrators can get a little boring after a while, but the smokey finish on the threading of the Koloro is anything but bland. The pen uses an eyedropper fill system and takes on the characteristics of the ink inside. I filled mine with Diamine Red Dragon, and—well—take a look for yourself. It’s gorgeous. As a supernatural mystery writer, there’s something I find oddly appealing about writing with ink that looks like dried blood.

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Speaking of eye-droppers, the Opus 88 Koloro is my first eyedropper pen. Instead of inserting a cartridge or ink converter, you fill the pen by unscrewing the ink reserve and dropping ink directly inside with the included eye dropper. This allows the pen to hold a massive amount of ink and doesn’t tarnish its beautiful appearance with ugly cartridges or converters. Not sure how an eye drops works? Take a look at the video below.

Piston fillers like the Lamy 2000 utilize a piston knob at the end of the barrel to pull ink into the ink chamber. Although the Opus 88 Koloro is an eyedropper pen, it has a piston too although the mechanism serves a unique purpose here. Instead of pulling ink into the pen’s ink chamber, the piston separates the ink chamber from the feed allowing the writer to control the flow of ink. This is especially useful when storing or carrying the pen, since the chamber can be closed off when not in use reducing the chance of leaks. The feed will hold enough ink for shorter writing sessions, but the chamber can be opened during longer sessions to ensure a steady flow of ink from the massive ink chamber.

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The Opus 88 Koloro isn’t an on-the-go pocket pen—it’s far too large. The cap also takes ten or so twists to uncap, so good luck doing this with one hand. I primarily use the Koloro for outlining fiction projects on index cards and editing printed drafts, so it tends to live on my desk. The pen does fit comfortably in my Nock Co. Tallulah, still my preferred case of the moment, so there’s no need to worry about whether or not it’ll fit in your favorite case.

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Although the Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator was an impulse buy, it has quickly become one of my absolute favorite pens. The pen’s aesthetic is stunning and unique with its smoky finish, massive ink chamber, and classy black clip. Its filling and ink flow system are well designed and functional, and the pen is an overall joy to use. Although I don’t love larger pens, I make an exception for this one, and I’ve been carrying the pen with me daily since I purchased it months ago. If you’re looking for a unique pen design that’s still sturdy enough to serve as a a daily workhorse, I highly recommend taking a look at the Opus 88 Koloro.

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Anvanda Bag Review

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Ever wait for a product so long you felt it could never live up to your expectations? That’s how I felt when I finally received my Anvanda Bag in the mail, nearly a year after I supported the campaign through Kickstarter. My Timbuk2 messenger bag was showing its age, and I’d been lugging the poor guy around since I received it as a gift more than five years ago. It’s not that I’ve solely used the Timbuk2—no—I’ve tried plenty of other bags. But after constant disappointment with loose stitching, crappy zippers, and shoddy materials, I always came back to the Timbuk2. The Anvanda Bag seemed just too good to be true. Anvanda claims to deliver a high-quality bag for a reasonable price, which is what originally drew me to the project. So I waited and waited, and my bag finally came in the mail a few weeks ago. Was it worth the wait?

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The Anvanda Bag is simply the best bag I’ve ever used as a daily carry. The bag itself is sturdy, well constructed, and made of high quality materials. This backpack messenger hybrid can be carried in almost any way imaginable. The bag has several strap clips and can be set up to be carried like a backpack, messenger back, or by the handle like a briefcase (although not sure why you’d do this). No matter what angle from which you approach it, it’s easy to grab the bag and get going.

Backpack mode

Backpack mode

I purchased the smaller green version of the bag with a leather upgrade. Much to my delight, I unzipped the bag for the first time to discover the inside lining was bright orange. The brown/green exterior gives the bag a classic professorly look, but the orange interior livens things up a bit. Much like my favorite pen addict, orange is also my favorite color.

A laptop sleeve and two large zipped pockets on the interior (in backpack mode)

A laptop sleeve and two large zipped pockets on the interior (in backpack mode)

Pockets! This bag has just the right amount of pockets. I keep my Nock Co. Tallulah in a hidden pocket, easily accessible and tucked behind the front leather panel. The bag doesn’t go crazy with battery packs, bungee cords, robotic arms, or any of those other extras you see on a lot of the newfangled Kickstarter bags—and I prefer the bag for it. The Anvanda Bag does include a rain cover, which is easy to slide around the bag and tucks into a dedicated pocket at the bottom of the bag.

Sturdy snaps, clips, and zippers make this bag something special.

Sturdy snaps, clips, and zippers make this bag something special.

Nearly every component of the Avanda Bag feels custom. The zippers are sturdy, have handy keychain snaps, and are stamped with Anvanda’s logo. While many bag manufacturers source supplies from bargain basement suppliers, which becomes clear when zippers break within a week, Anvanda seems to have done their research, and the bag shines because of it.

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My few issues with the Anvanda Bag are minuscule. The laptop sleave is accessible when unzipping the bag in backpack mode but not when unzipping from the messenger bag style zipper. This is a minor annoyance, and I’m not even sure how this could be manufactured in a reliable way without resulting in a flimsy insecure laptop sleave.

There’s no access to the laptop sleeve in messenger bag mode, but there is another secret pocket!

There’s no access to the laptop sleeve in messenger bag mode, but there is another secret pocket!

For the first time in five years, I’ve finally found a new bag that’s worthy of everyday carry status. I’ve been carrying the Anvanda Bag exclusively for the last few weeks and, dare I say, I like it more than my old Timbuk2. Capacity wise, I often find myself lugging around my 13-inch MacBook Pro, 12.9 iPad Pro, and a folder stuffed with paper, and the Anvanda doesn’t flinch. It’s just big enough without feeling bulky. There are very few products that live up to the hype of clever marketing techniques, but the Anvanda team has pulled off something special here. The bag is truly phenomenal and worthy of a glowing recommendation. If you’re looking for a durable bag that can be carried in several modes, the Anvanda may very well be worth a look. It’s currently available and shipping via Indiegogo.

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Bonus detail shots!

Bonus detail shots!


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Nock Co. Tallulah Pen Case Review

The Nock Co. Sinclair has been my go to case for years. It offers plenty of storage for pens and index cards and has lived in my work messenger back for some time. Although it’s a smaller case, sometimes one or two pens is enough, and I don’t need the extra room for stationery. I’ve never been a fan of those compact pen pouches, where the pens roll around freely, commingling with nothing between them. It’s fine for cheap pens, but I couldn’t stand to think about my Lamy 2000 or Pilot Vanishing Point getting scratches or chips from rolling around in a pen pouch. Nock Co.’s Tallulah offers an elegant solution to this problem, providing a compact form factor for my most cherished carry pens.

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I received my Tallulah as a reward from the Pen Addict Live Kickstarter, and it’s been my primary pen case ever since. The case has two large pen slots which can handle larger pens like the TWSBI Go and those of standard size. Compact clip-less pens get lost at the bottom of the pocket, but this is common with most cases. The case also has a pocket for business cards, although I have used it to stash one or two extra pens, which it does well. There’s enough slack in the case to store four or five pens total with relative ease, unless they’re big guys. Keep in mind that pens stored in the business card pocket may rub together, so it’s probably best to reserve this for less expensive/delicate pens.

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Those familiar with Nock Co. cases will find the same high quality design and construction in the Tallulah. The stitching holds up well under continuous use, and the case’s zipper is still going strong after hundreds of zips and unzips. As an orange fanatic, I love the clay/sunshine colorway. The outer case is a copper tone that’s much more subdued than my mandarin Sinclair, and I prefer it. The inner yellow is bright and cheery and the colors have stayed true despite constant usage.

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The Tallulah is another fantastic addition to the Nock Co. line of cases. It’s also more than that, though. I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog exploring the fussy, finicky, and inconvenient—things fun to use but never practical on the go or as daily drivers. You may have noticed the lack of posts since August, and I have to be honest—my life has been complete chaos as of late. Amidst terminal illness (don’t worry—not me), hospital visits, and holiday travels, I appreciate the tools I can throw into a bag at a moment’s notice. The flexibility and compactness of the Tallulah makes it invaluable. My Lamy 2000 and Retro 51, along with a few business cards, live inside at all times. I can throw the Tallulah in a bag with a notebook and my iPad and work from anywhere. It’s this simplicity that has allowed me to continue to get things done amidst the chaos.


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A Better Desk Birthday Giveaway

Three years ago, I started A Better Desk out of sheer boredom and the need to channel some creative energy. Three years later, the site has grown tremendously and I can’t believe how this little hobby gained so much momentum. First and foremost—thank you. This year has been a tough one, and I’m truly thankful for the awesome pen community that keeps me blogging.

In celebration of the blog’s birthday, the awesome folks at Inventery have kindly agreed to give away one of their sleek modular pocket fountain pens. The rules are simple: you’ll receive one giveaway entry for each of the completed tasks below, and you can complete as many or as few as you like. The giveaway is open to international fountain pen fanatics too! I’ll draw a winner on September 11th.

Thanks again for being awesome readers!

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TWSBI GO Fountain Pen Review

TWSBI is known for producing some of the best bang-for-your-buck pens on the market. The TWSBI 580AL fountain pen was my first “fancy” pen purchase (read-greater than $20), and it’s still the best value pen in my collection. TWSBI recently introduced the TWSBI GO fountain pen at its least expensive price point yet. How does it compare to its more expensive counterparts? Read on to find out.

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The TWSBI GO fountain pen offers many of the same benefits of other TWSBI pens, without the frills of its more expensive brothers and sisters. Most metal parts have been replaced with plastic, aside from the nib itself, piston spring, and ink chamber seal. The pen is still sturdy and well-built, and the heavy plastic helps it maintain a nice heft in hand. Most TWSBI pens have a twist-operated piston, but this has been replaced by a sturdy metal spring-loaded piston in the GO. It’s less finicky than a twist piston and won’t need to be greased every now and then, but it does give the pen a cheaper appearance.

To fill the pen, dip it into your favorite bottle of ink and press the piston. The TWSBI GO is a bit thicker, so I did have some trouble getting it past the halfway mark in my smaller Diamine bottles. It turns out TWSBI has developed its own solution for this issue, but unfortunately, the GO doesn’t work with TWSBI’s easy fill mechanism in the top of its inkwells. You're just going to have to fill this pen the old-fashion way.

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TWSBI pens-or any piston fillers for that matter-aren’t designed to use ink cartridges. This might scare away fountain pen novices, but the huge ink capacity is worth the tradeoff, in my opinion. If you’re considering purchasing this pen as your first fountain pen, check out my Penventory page for ink recommendations. Diamine inks are a great place to start, since they perform well and are affordable.

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Although the TWSBI GO does compromise in certain areas, the nib writes just as well as any TWSBI nib I’ve ever used. I usually rely on F (fine) nibs but purchased an EF (extra fine) nib and have been very pleased with its performance. TWSBI nibs tend to run broad, like most European nibs, and are wet writers in most instances. I have to admit, I think I may prefer the EF nib to the F.

TWSBI 580AL (top) and TWSBI GO (bottom)

TWSBI 580AL (top) and TWSBI GO (bottom)

This brings me to my only true issue with the pen—its grip design. Most TWSBI grips are smooth, and slipperiness is something that comes with the territory. The TWSBI GO grip is tapered and smooth, except for a molded grip at the base of the nib. I typically don’t grip the pen this low, since its uncomfortable and tends to result in inky fingers, but the GO grip somewhat forces you into this position. I wish the grip design was either fully molded, like the Lamy Vista and Safari, or completely smooth, like the TWSBI 580AL.

TWSBI 580AL (left) and TWSBI GO (right)

TWSBI 580AL (left) and TWSBI GO (right)

Instead of a clip, the TWSBI GO fountain pen comes with a keychain loop. If you absolutely must have a clip but want a TWSBI, try the TWSBI Eco. Personally, I like clip-less designs since I carry most pens in a Nock Co. Sinclair Pen Case. The pen also caps and posts securely and the cap relies on a snap mechanism, instead of a twist mechanism, so no need to worry about pocket leaks.

Overall, the TWSBI GO fountain pen is a competent addition to the $20 and under category. Those looking for an affordable piston filler will be hard pressed to find a pen that offers such a high quality writing experience for such a low price.

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