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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
While the major manufacturers in India produce pens in vast quantities, the iconic Indian-made fountain pen is still the hand-turned ebonite eyedropper-filler, which can be made by local makers in smaller quantities. This was indeed a very viable business model in that vast land, where manufacturers more or less focussed on the local markets. This means there have been scores of smaller makers dotted all over the sub-continent, but as the market changed - as has happened in recent years, many of them closed down for good.

Gem & Co, of Chennai (formerly called Madras) has been in business for eight decades, making and selling pens under the Gama brand. For the last year or so, its manufacturing side has bucked the trend and became tremendously successful. With help and input from a locally-based online dealer, Gama pens became easily available to international enthusiasts, and they also took steps to make their pens more appealing to international buyers by incorporating refinements such as screw-in nib units, added compatibility with cartridge and converter, etc. As I have always wanted a Gama pen, I decided to go for a more classic eyedropper design instead: a relatively new model called the Eyas: the young hawk.

The Eyas is made in black ebonite in highly-polished or brushed matt finish, and I picked the latter, and not because I like the fashionable "stealth look" - actually I am not keen on that. In fact it is a smaller version of the popular Gama Hawk model, which is a bit too big for me. As usual, here are the vital statistics. Length: pen only 135mm, capped 147mm, posted 175mm. Maximum diameter 14mm, minimum grip diameter 10.5mm. Mass: pen only 14.1g, with cap 22.6g. Centre of mass from tip: pen only 78mm, posted 101mm. Ink capacity is a little over 4ml, which is an enormous amount.

You can see it is not a very heavy pen, and of very reasonable modern size. Here is a comparison picture with the Lamy Safari; you can see they are of roughly comparable size. Take it to a board meeting and I feel sure it would bring envious looks from even the snootiest types.

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What is outstanding is its styling: when capped it is devoid of extra features except for a stylish clip and a neatly engraved "Gama" name, it is of torpedo shape with extreme purity in form. With the cap removed, a nicely profiled section in polished finish is revealed, holding a generously proportioned nib. The thread on the front of the barrel is not sharp at all, but the section is of ample length that there should be no need to touch the thread anyway.

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In my hand, the pen's shape is so divinely delicious that it feels like it moulds itself between my fingers with perfect balance. It's the combination of all these small features in the shape, the contour etc. that makes the difference between a good design and a great design. As an example: I believe that there is not much point in posting the cap, as it makes the pen really huge, but if you have huge hands and wish to do so, the opening of the cap is profiled in such a way that even when resting on the base of your thumb, it would not feel scratchy at all. Besides, posting also means the inner threads would mar the brushed finish on the barrel anyway, so I would not recommend it.

The feed is of the type pretty much standard on Indian eyedroppers, and the nib is a two-tone generic nib but selected and tuned by Gem; while it does not look terribly promising at first glance, its on-paper performance is outstanding, laying down a precise wet line with superb smoothness and yet, with just enough feedback to let you know that you are indeed writing. Unless you run into serious issues, I do not think it is necessary to upgrade the nib and/or feed.

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Among pen enthusiasts, a fair proportion of them are into eyedroppers, even as far as evaluating the merits of a pen by its possibility of converting as such. This is irrelevant here: while the hand-made ebonite pen is something considered to be so blasé, so old-hat in India, it is also a much desired boutique item outside that country, and Gem is astute enough to see this advantage, and tailor their products to satisfy substantial international demand. But when all is said and done, to me, this is close to being the ideal pen, and that's saying a lot.
 

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Nice review. It looks very well designed and I might have to look into the Gama brand more.

It does look very comfortable to write with.
 

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Definitely a nice review, thanks Seele! I popped over on the 'bay and noted that they had several Gama ebonite pens, but with German nibs. Interesting. But for now, I will hold off. I sold off my metal body Namiki Falcon and am eagerly awaiting its replacement, a Platinum with a for-real music nib!

Cheers,

Dan
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Dan, Fountain Pen Revolution and ASA pens are two dealers who sell Gama pens internationally, the latter firm has a wider selection; perhaps it's worth checking them out?

By the way, Noodler's own two-slit music nib is about ready to be introduced, and pre-production units have already been reviewed.
 

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I'll have to write a review on the Platinum music nib. It is a mighty fine writer. As smooth as anything I have had. But it is wet and burns through ink. Certainly not a pen for everyone, but if you spend the money, you will find it rewarding!

Thanks for the supplier suggestions. Several models, some with German and some with Chinese nibs.

Curious. Do you have to keep the eyedropper section full for good feeding? I normally flush all my new pens with a soap water mix to remove oils from the manufacture. Do you have to do that with these?

Thanks,
Dan
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Dan,

If the Gama-supplied generic nib on this example is anything close to typical, there should not be a need to change, I feel. Since ASA also sells some Chinese pens, they offer Jinhao nibs as alternatives to the original Indian-made nibs as well, but if you want alternative nibs of higher quality, you'd just be as well go European instead. Those with German nibs are new ones taking standard German nib units, they should provide a better reassurance to international buyers, I think.

Most vendors of eyedropper pens tend to apply silicone grease to the section thread before shipping, and ASA does that too, and offers a free service of dip-testing prior to shipping. For me I tend to play it safe, so I routinely clean off all the grease, dismantle the section, and clean everything thoroughly before reassembly and inking. For what it's worth, I have a greater trust in my stock of silicone grease that I bought from a local scuba shop.

Regarding ink burping, admittedly a lot has to do with the efficiency of the feed, and these standard pattern feeds tend to be a bit less so. This explains why many people swap in Sheaffer feeds which practically eliminates the problem. That said, the whole idea of an eyedropper pen is the extended writing period it offers per fill, to keep on topping it up would defeat the objective somewhat. I found that by keeping the pen in my shirt or jacket inner pocket actually helps: with the feed and nib up, the body heat warms the inside of the pen so that expanding air would escape beforehand. Several users reported that, even if the pen is kept at the desk, holding it in one's hand to warm it up with nib up for a few minutes also eliminates ink burping, regardless of the amount of ink inside.
 

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i have the larger version which is the Hawk.

it is a really big pen, considering how mainstream brands like to scale price with size for their big shiny flagships.

workmanship overall is decent, the stock generic nib they use is ok with some spring to it. the wet feed definitely helped to smoothen the ride.

i am looking forward to try their other offerings with JoWo screw-in nibs in the near future.
handmade indian ebonite pens are pretty much the only affordable ebonite pens out there, although quality of their domestic ebonite stock can vary more compared to the much costlier german or japanese ebonite stock rods.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Chromehead,

Not that long ago, Gama was well-known for their oversize pens, but of course when compared to the more recent offerings from other makers, such as Guider and Deccan, they are actually quite sensible... sort of like watch sizes, I suppose. It's also a good thing that Gama have gone for the other end of the scale, making the Airbourne, which is a homage to the Eversharp Skyline and that turned out to be a hot seller.

As I was wondering about how Gama was like in the classic idiom I went for this one rather than with screw-in nib units, but I do feel that the latter makes it much easier for them to provide greater stability in performance.
 
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