Rotring have recently been taken over by Sanford, and there’s some concern over their future. We’ve heard stories from ‘no change’ to ‘all products are finished, and the company has gone’. Whilst quite a few products do seem to have vanished, the brand does appear to be living on with a few products at least.
The Skynn is one of their freakier looking products, though it’s probably still in second place to the Core in that respect. I know the Core is reputed to be a very good fountain pen, though, if you can tolerate the looks, so I was keen to give the Skynn a try.
OK, let’s get the looks out of the way first, because it’s the most striking feature of this pen.
Unusually, the nib sits at the bottom, with the clip at the top, and a small cap over the nib. The reason this is never normally done is that fountain pens should be stored and carried with the nibs up. Rotring say they’ve worked out how to avoid that, so the clip can go where it normally is on ballpoints. The main body is dark grey – the top half is fairly simple grey plastic with a metal section wrapped around. The whole of the bottom half is clad in a strange gel substance.
The gel gives it a very odd feel, and a very odd look. If you can’t get over the looks, you should probably give up now. They might grow on you if you don’t mind them to start with, but if you really hate it, it won’t change for you.
If you don’t hate it, I think you have to give Rotring some respect for not sticking to the same traditional designs that everybody else is making. That said, Lamy manage to make pens that are different without making them so weird.
I’ve heard it described as such, but I certainly wouldn’t call it light. It’s not heavy, but it’s quite a bit heavier than the Lamy Safari, for example.
The small cap is a bit odd, and I’ve heard of a few people losing them, so be careful. It does post on the top in use, and doesn’t hurt the balance when it does (I prefer my pens unposted usually, but it doesn’t matter with this one).
It’s the main selling point of the pen, so let’s get to the grip. Is it good?
Yes. I rather like it. If you like a thinner section to grip, you probably won’t like it, and if you’re not keen on rubber grips, you probably won’t be keen. If you like a good wide section to hold, though, and you like it soft and non-slip, this is great. I find it very comfortable, and it makes this an easy pen for a lot of writing. The gentle curved shape of it gives you plenty of options for where exactly to grip, too. I prefer gripping fairly low, and find the Safari’s shaped grip a little too far back from the nib, but this works fine – if I start to grip a bit low down, it still works just as well, and if you like to hold further up, even up to almost half way up the body, you should be fine.
The writing and drawing experience really comes down to the nib, and this is a good one. I’ve only found one problem with it so far, actually. It makes the Lamy Safari nib feel a bit scratchy. It’s very smooth, and whilst it’s marked up as XL, it’s only slightly thicker than Lamy’s Medium, and it’s still usable in my pocket Filofax.
Whilst the nib isn’t flexible, it gives a little more variation than the Safari.
Cartridges should be as easy as with any other pen. I never even tried – just put a converter straight in there and filled it with Noodler’s ink. This hit one small problem – the converter we had around was a rather loose fit. Pushed into place, it could easily be shaken loose.
After a bit of experimenting, I found that the top fit closely enough down onto the converter that it had no room to move anyway, and seemed to make a good enough seal to work fine, so it didn’t seem to be a problem. No leaks so far anyway. It might not matter with a new converter, but this one had been used in another pen, so the converter could have been stretched by an oversized pen, or the Skynn might have a narrow nozzle where it connects to the converter.
Oh, and if you want to use it with a converter, it’s a standard International sized converter you want.
Unlike other pens I’ve used, the Skynn seems to work better when filling the converter first, then putting it into the pen. The loose fit meant that fitting the converter and then trying to suck ink in through the nib left the converter half filled with ink and half with air. This means you need a bit of time to get the flow going properly the first time you fill it. If you refill reasonably early in future, it shouldn’t be a problem again.
One other point for the grip – when I tried filling, at one point the grip ended up soaked with ink. I can definitely say it cleans up well. The outer layer is supposed to be a protective layer to make it easy to clean, so it should do. How well it will stand up to years of use may be another matter. The last product I used with this sort of construction was a gel wrist rest, and that didn’t do too well – a lot of time has passed since then, though, and that wasn’t made by Rotring.
Compared with the Lamy Safari
They’re quite different pens, but they’re both fountain pens, both around Â£12 – Â£13 ($20), and both are known for having good nibs, so I don’t suppose I’m the only one trying to choose between them.
Despite them being very different pens, I’ve not quite managed to choose between them yet.
- Looks: The Rotring is strange, the Lamy is understated and simple. I like minimalist styling, so the Lamy appeals to me much more.
- Feel: They feel very different. The Lamy is light and precise, slim and solid. The Rotring is big and round and soft and rubbery. The nib on the Rotring feels smoother, but the rubbery grip makes you feel a little less connected to the line.
- Use: The Lamy feels lower maintenance. The converter not only pushes firmly into place, but has two little retaining lugs to keep it right where it should be, so it can’t even twist. The ink window lets you see inside so you can tell how much ink is left. With the Rotring, filling is a bit awkward, and the converter sits so low down in the rubber section that you can only just see the top of the ink chamber when you open the pen. The Lamy gives you a better view than that without opening it. Although the clip on the Rotring is big, it’s not as easy to manipulate onto things as the Lamy clip.
So, it’s a choice between simple, stylish, usable precision; and smooth, soft, strange-looking comfort. The Lamy Safari is a Mazda MX-5; the Rotring is a Cadillac Escalade. And since I’m not even slightly Gangsta, that probably tells me which I should be using.