A versatile, modern fountain pen for every-day use and life
Headline: The Kaweco Supra stainless steel is a well-made, ultra-functional fountain pen (that can be adapted to a mini-pocket mode) and boasting a #6 steel nib that writes wet and fluently in medium, fine, titanium fine and double broad versions.
The pen reviewed here was kindly loaned by the legendary Scribble Monboddo who had been given it by Kaweco. It came with a medium nib and Kaweco standard and mini international converters.
The stainless-steel pen comes in a cardboard sleeve covering a beautiful retro, art deco presentation tin box with the legend: ‘license to write’. The tin box is made in China, and the fountain pen in Nuremberg in the Federal Republic of Germany [See Endnote 1] . Inside the box sits the pen itself, plastic sleeved, and accompanied by a little (c. 30 by 40mm) fold-out leaflet with a company history, filling instructions and warranty details, plus a Kaweco logo sticker. Inside the pen is a blank and a full mini international type cartridge of blue ink (more on this later).
The pen body consists of 4 stainless steel parts that screw together to give a “standard” sized pen in its fully-assembled glory that measures approximately 130 millimetres and weighs 48 grams with an ink-filled converter. (My electronic digital calliper read the overall length assembled at 129.94 mm so operator error considered and mathematical rounding I will take it as 130 millimetres.) [The scales used were digital kitchen ones so perhaps not as accurate as those used by some other reviewers.]
Other dimensions of the pen are as follows:
|Item||Length (millimetres – mm)||Weight (Grams – g)|
|Cap||47 mm||10 g|
|Nib section & grip|
|39 mm||7 g|
|Middle Section |
|30 mm||10 g|
|Barrel or Body|
|53 mm||21 g|
The standard version of the pen capped and pocketable comes in at 130 millimetres (mm); uncapped: 125 mm, and posted at 165 mm (measured using a rule as too long for the digital calliper). The mini-pocket version (without the middle extension tube) comes in at 100 mm capped, 95 mm uncapped and 134 mm posted.
It takes about 3 and a half full turns of the cap to reveal a Kaweco branded #6 nib that is made by Bock of Germany. You can get the pen in nib versions of extra fine, fine, broad and broad-broad (or double broad, I suppose). (Note: these nibs are not interchangeable with other Kaweco nibs found in their Sport range.)
The pen is made in Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) cut stainless steel with no coating or finish added. The overall impression is of a well-designed, engineered and highly functional pen that echoes the cultural and practical ethos of the Bauhaus movement that flourished in architecture, painting, design, furniture and typography for some of the interwar years, initially at Weimar (1919-1925) and then at Dessau before succumbing to suppression under the Nazis after 1933 because of its “cultural bolshevism”. [See Endnote 2] At the risk of threading where angels might fear to go, the pen definitely has a German cultural feel to it: it is well-thought out, beautifully engineered and finished, highly-functional: it looks good, fits together well and works perfectly. Its pristine steel form is unadorned except for the simple Kaweco logo on the top of the cap and just below a laser engraved script Kaweco and then in plain sans serif: Supra Germany on the cap body.
The emphasis on functional form and unfinished (no satin polishing here, etc) texture to the steel is also redolent of the Bauhaus movement: it is not needed and would only make the pen slippery to hold as well as a fingerprint magnet. And so, it feels comfortable in the hand in its “normal” or mini-pocket version. In the normal parlance of the pen world it might be described as cigar-shaped but given the tapered look from cap to end, a more fitting visual metaphor might be to describe it as torpedo-shaped. The overall size of the pen might seem somewhat on the smaller side of what we typically are offered in fountain pen supply these days but it is does not feel small in girth or length, even without the cap screwed on to post. Posting the pen certainly shifts the centre of gravity and balance of the pen but it does not feel excessively back-weighted or irritatingly imbalanced. For convenience I tended to place the cap standing upright. (Generally, I avoid posting pens as I, like others in the FP UK group, do not like to risk inadvertently marking the pen body when putting on and taking off the cap.) At 48 grams the pen weights more than you typically expect, even of other metal pens; for example, a Lamy Dialog 3 (46 grams), Diplomat Aero (42 grams) or Waterman Hemisphere (21 grams). With the standard pen configuration there is a variation in the width (of about 1.0 mm) between the main and middle section (12.4 mm) and the rest of the body (11.5 mm). There is no roughness or discomfort with this and I did not find it aesthetically or functionally irritating.
Is the weight and size an issue? As someone recently pointed out we seem to measuring our pen lives out by comparison to the Lamy AL star (139 mm capped). So, using this as our yardstick the Kaweco is a tad short of the ‘new norm’. Modern pens like their users seem to be getting bigger in most dimensions: length, girth, and weight. Grail pens like Visconti Homo Sapiens weigh in at 46 grams and 146 mm length (capped). You could also quite reasonably argue that it appears that some of the most favoured/popular social media fountain pen (mainly men) reviewers have fuelled the trend to, and perhaps the demand for, bigger pens. Yet many of us are happy to seek out and to use vintage pens such as a Pelikan 400NN (about 1955) or a Canadian Parker Televisor Mark 1 of 1935, both of which measure a modest 130mm in length. Notwithstanding that trend and Kaweco’s reputation for supplying the demand for smaller pocket pens the Kaweco Supra posted, or not, seems a happy goldilocks’ fit girth and length wise. In a world where design is driven by the male fit perhaps the dimensions of the Kaweco Supra are just right generally (men and women). At the risk of speculating about the designers’ deliberations perhaps the length issue was why Kaweco went with a screw on for posting cap option? And what of the weight? Just as body sizes and hands have got bigger, sedentary life styles have rendered prosperous hands less strong. But if your hand can drive a Visconti Homo Sapiens across the page then this pen should not offer much resistance or challenge. In using it to write several long-ish letters (8 sides of A5) I did not find that the weight tired me. The pen felt very natural, comfortable, even ergonomic in the hand, and a pleasure to use.
How it writes/works
The addition of a ‘large’ nib in a ‘smaller’ pen really works well. The large nib and plastic feed deliver a consistently wet line in medium and fine-nibbed versions and also when the pen was ‘upgraded’ to a Bock #6 titanium fine nib. With a double broad the pen positively gushes. I am sure that you could tweak this pen’s nib permutations but ‘out of the box’ it just works and is a joy to use. As with any decent pen it makes you want to use it for any excuse at writing; from the banal to the serious. The ink flows across the page and before you know it you are 8 pages on and need to get the finished letter in the post. The writing samples attached were parts of letters to a friend in Germany as it seemed an appropriate use of a German pen. Indeed, the last time I visited him in Germany was via Berlin, Kassel, Nuremberg on plane and train trip. (Unfortunately, I did not visit the Kaweco factory in Nuremberg. Note to self: add to wish list and prioritise a return to Nuremberg.)
The grip section is on the short side (15 mm) and gently sloping from 10.46 mm diameter in a concave to 10.18 mm where the nib appears. A #6 steel nib gives the pen a feeling of generously proportioned and considered functionality: it looks right, feels right and the OEM (made by Bock) Kaweco nibs perform perfectly in a variety of widths.
The section is matt and does not feel slippery to me but I have quite dry skin and perhaps those with a tendency to more moist palms or hands might find it does not suit them. The steel threads do not feel sharp and uncomfortable whilst holding or using the pen. The threads on the end of the barrel where the cap can be attached, are also not sharp or rough to the touch. (The picture below shows the Bock titanium fine nib up against a Lamy LX Ruthenium with a black EF nib and a Lamy 2000 with a fine nib.)
I used the pen as an every-day-carry and main pen for several weeks writing on a range of papers. I carried it in the front pocket of my jeans with my wallet and it survived unmarked and without loss of the cap, or ink. It’s an exceptionally robust pen and in both its full and mini forms this fountain pen would make an excellent travel companion or every-day-carry.
The mini form version of the Supra is achieved by removing the middle section and screwing the barrel back into the section. The mini pen at 100 mm capped does look small, even against its Kaweco counterparts of the plastic or Brass Sport or a Pilot Prera.
However,when posted it has a decent and comfortable 134 mm length and sits in the hand as well as a Lamy al Star, Lamy 2000 or Lamy LX unposted.
Overall, this is a really solid, well-made and highly functional fountain pen that writes exceptionally well across its nib permutations. It appears almost bomb proof and should bring its users happiness for many years as a go-to everyday use pen. When the lockdown is completely clear and more or less done, I hope to travel to the mountains of Romania and Georgia (using an excellent Cicerone press guide for the former and other sources for the latter) and this is a pen that I would definitely pack for the rough and stumble of such adventures.
This is an excellent well-made, very solid pen, that is an excellent writer fitted with an #6 nib and with the added attraction of being readily and easily ‘converted’ to a mini pocket pen. It is a fountain pen that I would happily, indeed, strongly recommend as a must buy, must carry. It is the type of pen that you can stick in your trouser or jeans’ pocket and not worry about it getting broken or damaged. (Though for aesthetic reasons I would not carry it with keys or other metal objects that could mark and mar the steel surfaces.)
Finally, as proof of any recommendation, or faith in the product, I have followed my own advice. Reader, I bought one.
UK Stockists and prices:
This is a mid-priced fountain pen but very definitely a premium object and great value for money. It can be bought for £94.90 (including postage) from Hamilton Pens, or £105 (including postage) from Pure Pens and £105 (including postage) from Cult Pens. (Just to note: I bought my Kaweco Supra for £85.41 as Hamilton Pens had a 10% off offer at the time.) My experience of these three suppliers has been excellent. It does not come with any converter so if you want to bottle fill the pen then factor in another £5 for the mini converter and £6 for the normal size converter. Hamilton Pens has a wide offer of Kaweco international convertors. However, other international standard converters will fit the pen (for example, Schmidt or a Beaufort). You could also ‘upgrade’ your Supra by fitting a Bock #6 titanium or gold nib.
Whilst I was loaned the pen, this review was written purely out of interest and not at the behest of, or for, any commercial party or interest. Indeed, I purchased a stainless steel Kaweco Supra model fountain pen with my own funds from a UK independent stockist.
Endnote 1: The city of Nuremberg is a great place to visit (coffee, cake, beer and excellent food and several very nice top class pen shops, etc) and stay in and has a fantastic Museum of Art and Design (Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design Nürnberg) which when I visited the city in 2017 had an interesting exhibition contrasting western and eastern European design traditions including those of the Federal Republic of Germany with German Democratic Republic. Indeed, as ultimate chances would have it, I struck up conversation with some lovely older Americans: Cathy and Caroline from Florida in the Bergbrand café and roastery, and the former had relatives from my native Newry and had visited and was familiar with the Mountains of Mourne and the region’s cafés and restaurants.
Endnote 2: Although Bauhaus is seen as an essentially German movement born of the rationalisation implicit in the German DIN standardisation (Deutsches Institut für Normung) and the earlier Deutscher Werkbund design for manufacturing traditions, it was also a very international movement with Russian, Hungarian and Dutch influences and currents. Its core code of modernism and of form to fit function is still very much alive and felt amongst the fountain pen movement and not just in Germany.