If you love Indian handmade pens and like to get one every now and again, you should consider joining the FountainPenNetwork forums. These wonderful Indian manufacturers often organize so-called “Group buys”, where you sign up for a currently offered pen and all participants get a quantity discount. The best part though is that you can actually specify what material, finish, clip, type of nib and filling system you prefer. You are pretty much allowed to customize the pen to your exact wishes. Today’s pen has been purchased through such group buy. Today’s pen is an eyedropper filled, olive/burgundy Ebonite, Ranga Bamboo.
- Manufacturer, model name and country of origin:
Ranga, Bamboo – regular size (available in oversize/giant version as well)
Hand made in India
US $45 for my particular pen
Price depends on the customization options such as filling system (eyedropper or 3-in-1 cc filler) and material (regular, special or premium Ebonite)
Polished olive/burgundy ripple Ebonite (available in many other colors too)
no trim, clipless version
Supplied with a Vality/Iridium point Fine nib;
Reviewed with a #6 size Jinhao steel “Fude” nib;
“Ranga” Ebonite feed
- Filling system:
Eyedropper (also available as cartridge/converter filler – price differs)
capped 152 mm
barrel itself 115 mm (135 mm with a nib)
posted*does not post
body diameter 14 mm – 15 mm
section diameter 10.5 mm – 11.5 mm
- Where to buy:
Available at ‘rangahandmadepens’ Ebay store (no affiliation but please do consider mentioning my review if you decide to get one for yourself)
The Bamboo is certainly a novelty design. It is inspired by the Japanese pens of the same style, which in turn are inspired, quite obviously, by nature, namely by the bamboo plant. You can find a few such pens around but they are generally very expensive as they’re made almost exclusively by a very luxurious brands. And it seems to be rightly so as I imagine the manufacture of these is more challenging than any of the regular designs. Usually they are treated with special lacquers such as Urushi which is very labor intensive and does add considerably to the overall cost of the pen.
The Ranga’s version of the Bamboo pen is not treated externally in any way. The material is Ebonite and it is your choice to have it in polish or matte finish. That’s about it. I personally find raw Ebonite very pleasing and in most cases preferable to lacquer. For the record, I wouldn’t say no to a Urushi lacqured luxury pen. But considering the quality and price of the Ranga’s Bamboo, I am exceptionally satisfied with the product.
The pen is available in two sizes, regular and so-called giant. My pen is regular size but the “giant”, or oversize, is the exact same pen, only larger.
Because of the flush design, there is a substantial step down from the barrel to the section. The section is not too slim but it’s definitely on the narrow side. The “giant” model is going to have a thicker section.
I, however, decided on the regular size model because I was worried the body would be just a bit too big. I wish I could show you side by side comparison of the giant vs. regular size but unfortunately right now I am unable to do so as I only own the regular model.
Usually the cap on handmade Ebonite fountain pens is made from two pieces, a cap barrel and finial which is screwed onto the barrel, closing the cap at the end and holding a clip in place.
I opted for clipless version of the pen as the clip would completely kill the design in my opinion. Oddly enough the clip was offered as an option.
The finial is slightly pointed and is done very well. The details on the pen are very well done too.
As I already mentioned, the Bamboo pen is designed so the cap is flush with the body. This means that, when the pen is closed, you shouldn’t be able to see where the cap ends and the pen body begins. I am happy to say that this is the case with the Ranga Bamboo. The pen is superbly well put together. I can’t stress this enough. Ranga pens, in my opinion and experience, are the luxury pens among the Indian manufacturers. However much I enjoy my pens from Gama, ASA or FPR, Ranga comes clearly on top. When I look for a new pen to add to my collection I immediately look at Ranga and no further. They have a great variety of models and quite simply, in my opinion, they’re the best.
The polish quality always reveals just how serious the maker is about their pen design. The amount of time and care that is spent on finishing the pen is one of the most important factors, in my opinion. It is what you see when you look at the pen, it is what you feel when you handle it. I must say the Bamboo is very well done. But it’s not perfect. I have to admit it – it’s not perfect. Despite my praises, I think it could be still nicer but at the same time I know my expectations must be adjusted accordingly. And I don’t mind. I really don’t. It’s very well done and still far better than most other Indian pens I have owned.
The cap itself is well made also. The material is thick enough so I don’t worry about cracking but it does feel just a bit more delicate than I’d like when tightening the cap onto the body. I have already put the pen through a heavy use and haven’t observed anything worrisome yet. The material doesn’t seem to be stressed too much when using the cap but I do take care to not go overboard with how tight I close it.
The pen fits very nicely in the hand. The size worried me a little bit when I was ordering my pen. But despite the section diameter of only 10.5 mm at its narrowest point and the considerable step-down, the pen is very comfortable.
The pen is not small at all. The regular version already is an oversize pen in its own right. It doesn’t post but it’s plenty long to be used without the addition of the cap. I have larger hands myself and find it plenty long. If you have really large hands though, you may want to look at the oversize version.
The following images should give you good enough idea of the size and girth of the pen and help you decide whether it is for you or not.
The heart and soul of every pen is undoubtedly the nib and feed. In my opinion, the feed is the most important component of a pen and so that’s what we’ll have a look at first.
The “Ranga” feed is the shortest of the three feeds shown on the images below. On the bottom side it has fins for capturing excess ink and on top it has two wide grooves along the ink channel that serve the same purpose. It’s got one main channel with two individual channels but these are both very thin and very shallow. For regular fine writing this is good enough but if you want to feed a nib that’s as wide as the Fude nib I use with the pen, then adjustments are certainly necessary to achieve sufficient flow. Even with the adjustment I have experienced the infamous ink starvation, which I address in more detail in my performance review.
In my previous review of Ranga Model 3/Duofold I mentioned that it was my first encounter with the “Ranga” feed. Since then I have had a fair amount of time to put the feed through its paces and to reassess my opinion. And reassess I did.
The feed is quite capable to hold its own in most circumstances. However, among the three feeds I use, namely “Noodler’s”, “Indian” and “Ranga” feeds, the Ranga one is probably my less popular choice. Let me use this opportunity and quickly share my comparison of the three.
Noodler’s feed offers great inkflow, even without any adjustments it can compete with the Ranga feed after the feed channel was adjusted. It has great amount of fins, holding a lot of ink thus providing great ink supply to the nib and offering a fairly solid prevention from leakage (if it doesn’t sit unused for too long – as the fins fill with ink the probability of leaks increases).
The long “Indian” feed due to its length does offer exceptional ink burp prevention but it doesn’t offer as great an inkflow as the Noodler’s feed. An occasional starvation may occur but it’s not really a concern.
The Ranga feed is neither exceptionally leakproof nor wet. It does well enough in both areas but excels in none. This is why I find it least desirable of the three for artistic purposes. For writing I’ve no doubt it would be as good and sufficient as any of them.
The Bamboo is available, as all Ranga pens, as either eyedropper or cartridge/converter filler. My pen is obviously an eyedropper filler (cc fillers feature plastic feed). This means that there is no internal mechanism, a cartridge or converter that holds the ink. Instead, the whole barrel acts as an ink reservoir. This comes with some advantages but also certain downsides. The main advantages of such filling method are higher ink capacity as well as freer flow. The obvious downsides are, simply put, messiness and occasional ink burps and possible leaks.
I don’t usually have any issues with burps while I write. Unfortunately though, it is true that leaks occur. They happen mostly in transit when I have my pens in my bag. As I go to and fro work, the outside and inside temperature difference prompts these pens to leak. And leak they do. This is very impractical but also, if you’re using an ink like the Sailor Sei-Boku, you’re in for some experience! After one such leak quite a bit of ink covered the whole section and cap threads. The section won’t ever be the same.
What is my solution for this is simply leaving the pens at home. I have my Lamy 2000 in Fine as my daily writer and that never leaks even if the temperature difference is extreme. I still prefer and regard highly my pens with Ebonite feeds and take them over the plastic ones any day but the key is to understand the shortcomings of each system. I leave my drawing pens at home and I never have any issues whatsoever.
The threading on the section and barrel is again simply excellent.
This image also shows the “section regulator” feature of Ranga eyedroppers. For those of you who are not familiar with this feature, my explanation follows.
Ranga eyedropper pens have one really unique feature. Their section comes with a sort of regulating mechanism – a barrier of sorts. The end of the section is finished off just like the end of the barrel is – with a flat piece of material. Through it a small hole is drilled. This I expect is to prevent accidental leakage and regulate the movement of ink around the feed. Provides possible assistance when handling the pen. I don’t have a way to objectively quantify this. I will say though that it is my impression that it does indeed work.
I personally, however, prefer the long Indian feed as my anti-leakage insurance to this system. That’s not to say it doesn’t work as well, that’s just my personal preference.
The nibs that are supplied with the pen are shown on the image above. They are both Indian, what seems like #5.5, Fine nibs. I actually really love the design of the Wality nib and consider equipping it on one of my pens. The issue I have with them though is the tipping material. It doesn’t feel great. The metal used for tipping has very different feel from those on German nibs. I much prefer the German feel.
As you can see, I have equipped the pen with a Jinhao nib. This is a Fude nib, which provides me with great amount of line variation from hairline to 2 mm line, depending on the angle at which I hold the pen. I since replaced this nib with a JOWO Fude nib which I like more still, but basically most #6 size nibs fit.
The pen is inked with Sailor Nano Sei-Boku ink. It is a Nano pigmented ink. And I can’t but use this opportunity to share a word of caution with you about using this ink in a precious pen to you or a pen made from a material that cannot be easily washed with bleach or a pen flush. Not long after the review some ink leaked into the cap of my pen and ever since the pen was permanently stained, the threads dark blue and the section shiny red (the ink leaves a heavy red sheen). Partly this was my fault as I should have reserved it for my cc or piston fillers where leakage doesn’t occur.
Now don’t get me wrong, this ink is beautiful. A bit too dry for my liking, but the color, shading and sheen are amazing. On the page, the ink looks spectacular. I love everything about how it looks but there is the undeniable fact that once the ink puts its teeth into something it won’t let go. I even had problems to clean it from the stainless steel nib!
On the image above you can see that the ink looks fantastic on the page. In this super broad Jinhao Fude nib the shading is truly amazing. The paper is Rhodia R Ivory 90g and man, the ink does look good on the Ivory paper!
In my sketchbook I capture my thoughts and ideas, I plan my paintings there. This is just an example of how I use the pen for my work. When I draw in my sketchbook I often use up a lot of ink when I block in my shapes. The sketchbook I use is a Winsor & Newton and uses 160g paper. This paper is fairly absorbent, much more so than nay of ours fancy fountain pen friendly papers. On the sketchbook paper I find the feed often unable to keep up. Granted, with such application I am probably pushing the limits well beyond what the pen was designed to do. I use 2mm line and have no mercy when laying down ink on the page. And so what I describe here is quite extreme. For such heavy ink demand the feed could still be customized further and I’ve no doubt it would satisfy my needs perfectly.
The writing experience is fantastic. Even with this huge nibbage you can write a whole page as I did here without much issues with the feed keeping up. Sometimes the inkflow slows down but if you just let the feed recharge for a second it keeps going on and on, unless you run out of ink.
That is all well and good you may say, but what about writing with unadjusted feed and regular fine nib, such as the one that comes with the pen?
In that case, I would imagine you to find the inkflow more than satisfying. Depending on the nib and its flow setting, you may find it to be a very wet pen or a very dry pen, or something in between. It does depend on the nib. The feed has got you covered whatever your preference. If you choose to do nothing to the pen, as most of you probably are, you can use the pen for writing as it comes to you and you’ll be very happy. If you’re willing to replace the nib and/or adjust it to your preference you just add further value to already excellent product. Even leakage would be less likely to occur with the feed in its original state.
Now after finishing my review I was still not completely satisfied with my findings. I have experienced leakage even without the pen leaving my house. And so I decided that further experimentation was necessary. I have since equipped the pen with the long Indian feed and adjusted it for greater flow. I have brought the pen with me to work when the outside temperatures were below zero. Following is my conclusion.
The Ranga feed is best used in its stock state. I used it both adjusted and unadjusted and the leakage probability increases dramatically with the adjustment. It is therefore best to reserve the feed for fine nibs and not for broad nibs and artistic applications. I personally prefer the long feed for my work. I use it adjusted and it does have trouble keeping up if I put a lot of ink on the page but it restarts very quickly. Unadjusted this feed would be unsuitable for high ink demand applications too, perhaps even more so than the Ranga feed. The long feed does not leak, it is much more safe to take it with you on the go.
As you may have noticed I talk a lot about the feeds and less about the pen itself. It is simply because I believe that the feed makes the pen. The feed provides you with the performance you experience when using the pen. The nib comes in play too but the feed is the engine. If you have incapable feed, as many modern pens do, your experience won’t be pleasant regardless of the nib you have on the pen, be it cheap steel or extremely expensive gold one.
It’s beyond any doubt that the Bamboo is a unique pen. It is very pleasing visually. Unlike many novelty designs though, it is comfortable, good size and does offer two distinctive writing experiences. In one word, it is a pen most practical and versatile.
If you’re used to plastic feeds and that is indeed the kind of performance you prefer, you can order it with a #6 size JOWO nib unit, which is probably the best you can get in steel. If you’re feeling adventurous or your demands on the inkflow are above average, you may be happier with the eyedropper version. The great thing is that you have the choice.
The Ebonite feed supplied with the pen is not my favorite but it’s a solid performer. It can be adjusted as easily as the rest of them, though I would not recommend it for the probability of leakage increases dramatically. The nibs for the eyedropper version are nothing to write home about but they work if you don’t want to invest the time and money to replace them.
All in all, a solid pen, well made, from a manufacturer that I can only praise for their attitude towards their customers and most importantly, their work speaks for itself. I haven’t had an experience with any Ranga yet that would disappoint me in a way many other Indian pens have.
That’s all for this review. If you enjoyed it please consider sharing it with your friends on social sites (you can find the links just below the image gallery) and let me know what you think. Do you use Indian fountain pens, do you use fountain pens at all? If so, what is your preferred filling system? If you’re an artist, what is your favorite pen for drawing? Are you interested in trying out any of the Ranga Ebonite pens?