Ranga Pens 'sugarcane' in olive ebonite

Sugarcane-shaped fountain pen for a plant lover.

Cover Image

I have a big soft spot for anything that is handmade. Here's a formula that gets my attention: Handmade + fountain pen + plant = HECK YEA!

I ordered a handmade Indian pen from Ranga Pens. The model I chose was a regular-sized sugarcane eyedropper fountain pen in olive ebonite, matte finish, and steel flex nib. According to their website, the pens are made by a father and son team, M.S. Pandurangan and M.P. Kandan and they both rely on traditional and old school methods of pen making. CRAFT! RESPECT!

India Post was down for a long time (and continues to be down at original time of writing) so the folks at Ranga Pens had to switch to UPS for shipping, which incurred an additional cost, but that's expected. Disregarding the UPS package was that throw over the box, the package came wrapped in a sewn cotton (?) sleeve with the addresses written in pen. I found it very endearing! This is perhaps the 2nd time I've received a cloth package (the first time being Nights in White Flannel).

The box is reasonably sized and I can appreciate its no frills nature. I'm always sad about gigantic showcase boxes, because I use all my pens, I don't store them. This is also true of watches! Big empty boxes taking up space, bah!

Inside the package was a business card, a bonus/free fountain pen, the actual sugarcane pen, and a Wality "special" fine tipped nib (two toned) and ebonite feed.

The free/extra "Oliver Exam" piston-filled pen is probably made out of resin because it has a strange smell to it. Oliver Exam is going to air out in the sun for a while, so I won't be writing about it today.

I am really happy with how naturally planty the sugarcane pen looks! The sound and feeling of the ebonite has a lot of similarities with the bamboo brushes that I have (though heavier). I actually feel like I'm holding a mini bamboo flute or whistle when I'm holding this pen (yea I know it's called 'sugarcane'), which I also had growing up. I actually have a hard time telling which side is up or down for the pen cause the seam is just off-centre. The ebonite itself has some natural speckles and I think there is some "grain" left from the handworking, so overall it has a great organic look to the exterior.

I chose a "steel flex" nib when ordering, which resulted in a Kanwrite steel nib. I don't have a flex nib (other than my actual dip nibs; nikko g) in my collection, so I thought it would be a fun choice. The Kanwrite nib is pretty hard; I wouldn't really say that it's a flex nib unless you put a lot of pressure down when you write. I don't use a lot of pressure because I already have a bunch of wrist issues, so the pen became a F/M nib in my hand.

Perhaps I didn't get to test the flex to its max capabilities because of issues below.

When I first started using it, it was super wet and leaking from the feed. I didn't even realize this until it was too late, but a bunch of ink had seeped into the cap without my knowing, so when I re-capped the pen, ink got allll over my paper!

I tried heat-setting it a few times but no help. I was getting sad because I love the pen body but the pen was functionally useless to me if it leaked. Eventually I found the confidence to yank the nib/feed out and put some silicon grease on the feed itself, then heat set it again. No improvement! Over time it stopped writing and continue to leak.

Later on I swapped the Wality nib with the Kanwrite nib and kept the existing feed. Still wet, still leaking, but not as much. Heat set a few more times. Eventually I got it to STOP leaking, but the feed position is really close to the tip, so it's no longer a juicy writer. It writes more like a rollerball now?

Well, that's better than a leaking machine at least! The nib is also very hard. I do like the 2-tone look of the nib with the olive body though.

I might futz with the nib/feed more later, but for now I'm relieved to have a pen that writes and doesn't LEAK! Ideally it would be a LIL bit more juicy. I also have Diamine Meadow inked up in a Platinum Preppy and the ink looks super different (much darker). My guess is that there is still some residual water diluting the ink from all the heat setting. The final charm point of this pen is that it can stand vertical on a flat surface! Hehe...

Ink: Diamine Meadow Paper: 52gsm Tomoe River, white

Note: a few days after I drafted the above post, I ended up yanking out the wality nib and tried the kanwrite one again. It took very long to get it to work but finally it's not leaking like crazy, is writing, and is a bit juicier. I keep the pen upright at my desk now!

I don't write in a very flexy way (I save my flexing for drawing...) and my cursive is sorely out of practice. Still have to press/grip hard for any flex, and it really digs into the paper! It was an interesting learning to see how the relative distance of feed and nib changes ink flow. Now my feed is closer to the tip than it was when it originally came. I probably re-seated the feed/nib and heat set them over 10x.

Today's music post: Sanubar Tursun - Didar ghenimet.