As my Sheaffers went dry I inked up my vintage Parkers to replace them. My 3 Vacumatics all have ink and “Big Red” has joined them. In keeping with the Parker theme I opened a couple bottles of Parker Quick ink for a couple of the,. It’s the modern stuff.
Last week was a good week for acquisitions, and they arrived this week.
First up is yet another Esterbrook 8440 nib. The base is stained with red ink but the gold is in better condition than the other 8440 nib I have. No doubt the staining kept the price down.
Then my Parker Vacumatic collection grew by one with the addition of a 1944 Parker Blue Diamond Vacumatic Major in Golden Pearl (aka Brown Striped). The transparency is very good and it has an XXF nib.
The bargain of the bunch was a batch of 6 Esterbrook nibs. Three were the common #1550, but the three nibs below are new to me. The first two are the uncommon #1314 flexible fine nibs. One was in the original box and seems either unused or lightly used. The third nib is a 2314-M Relief medium Stub which is new to me although I like my other Relief Stubs. I usually avoid flex nibs since they’re lost on me but I have this need to collect every Esterbrook nib and this deal was too good to pass up..
I haven’t inked any of these up yet, but that’s what weekends are for.
After listing my 5 favorite modern and vintage pens it makes sense to list the five favorite inks I put in them.
1. Montblanc Bordeaux
Easily my number 1 ink. I have just over 2 bottles of this discontinued ink left. I had been hording it, afraid to use it all up. Then I realized that not using it was not using it, whether because I was hording or because I actually ran out. If it’s not in a daily carry pen then it’s in one of my desk pens, currently my Edison Huron Grande. Montblanc Bordeaux ink notes.
2. Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun
Another clear favorite and usually found in at least one of my daily carry pens. NOT a watered down black. Fuyu-Syogun ink notes.
3. Montblanc Racing Green
While this dark green may not always be in one of my pens it’s a favorite and is inked up more often than not. It is an ink I get tired of if I use it too much so it could temporarily drop from this list. I have just under two bottles of this discontinued ink left. Ink Notes
4. Rohrer and Klingner Blau-Schwarz
I’m not a fan of blue or even blue-black inks, yet this blue-black is a favorite. Unfortunately it’s a limited edition ink. This ink is a regular in my Franklin-Christoph Model 66 desk pen which is always inked. Ink Notes
It looks like I have a preference for Montblanc inks, despite not having any of their pens. It just turned out this way. There are some that I don’t like or haven’t tried but I do trust them in my pens, including vintage, since Montblanc intends them for use it their own expensive pens.
Despite the blueish grey of Fuyu-syogun and the blue-black R&K ink I’m not a fan of blue inks. I don’t hate them, but you’ll never see a true-blue in my favorites and rarely in my pens.
Going into the Washington DC show I had my eye on the Franklin-Christoph Model 40 Pocket and the Mike Masuyama ground Needlepoint nib, although maybe not together. F-C offers specialty nibs ground by Mike Masuyama as a option with their pens and the price bump is extremely reasonable, in my opinion. I wanted to see both in person and try them before buying since I had specific expectations from each.
[See an update I made on Nov. 16, 2013 at the bottom.]
Why I Got It
I was looking for a pen I could carry in my pants pocket. Most of the time when I grab a pen from my shirt pocket for a quick note I prefer the thinnest nib possible since the paper varies widely and I often want to write a tiny note. I don’t always have a shirt pocket or want a pen there, so a pants pocket pen was on my list.
After trying the needlepoint at the F-C booth I found it was smoother than other XXF or needlepoints I used. It wrote great when a light touch was used. I decided to get it in this pen because I thought a needlepoint nib would be a perfect pocket carry. When I made notes in my pocket notebook I wanted a thin line, the thinner the better so I could write small. I didn’t think I’d use it much in a full size pen carried as one of the pens in my pen case. The clip-less, small pen was perfectly sized for a pants pocket.
I wasn’t too concerned about accidents or breakage as long as the pen was sturdy. I’d used eye dropper fills enough to have confidence that this wouldn’t leak if I converted it. This pen seemed sturdy. I was looking for a screw on cap which this pen has. Even if it leaks, all the seams are inside the screwed on cap which provides another barrier.
What I Got
It’s the Model 40 Pocket, in the “Smoke & Ice”, without a clip. It’s currently $134.50 with the specialty nib. With a standard nib it’s $119.50. (free worldwide shipping)
Length capped: 4.265″ (108.34 mm)
Length uncapped: 3.786″ (96.18 mm)
Length posted: 5.265″ (133.74 mm)
Section length: 1.071″ (27.20 mm)
Section diameter (near threads): 0.359″ (9.13 mm)
Section diameter (near nib): 0.444″ (11.28 mm)
Barrel diameter: 0.512″ (13.02 mm)
Cap diameter: 0.587″ (14.92 mm)
Cap length: 2.657″ (67.50 mm)
Using the Pen
While I can write a quick without posting the pen, it really does need to be posted when used. The pen may be short when not posted, but unlike other small pens the gripping section is full size. So when posted the pen is comfortable to hold. The cap posts securely although is held in place with only friction. My only concern is that it’s the threads making contact with the barrel. While they where down over time? I can’t say, only time will tell but the pen is solidly made. Will the threads scratch the pen body? They haven’t so far so I’m not concerned about this anymore.
I’ve been carrying the pen since getting it. I often forget to add it to my “daily carry” post unless I just happened to add ink at the same time, but I always have it. This review’s been a long time coming because finding a suitable ink has taken awhile and I’m still not completely satisfied. But more on this later.
I used the supplied ink cartridge for the first few days but soon converted the pen to a eyedropper fill (ED) and I’ve been using it this way since. The conversion is simple, a little silicon grease around the threads is all that’s needed. I do like the way the ink looks in the barrel and I really want to find a bright ink that also gets along with the nib but I’m still looking. There’s no convertor available since the pen is small. I don’t like the look of convertors in clear pens anyway. The frosted finish of the pen tends to blur the cartridges shape making it appear more as a bit of color rather than an ink filled piece of plastic which is a nice effect.
I carry the pen in my pants pockets. I’m in the habit of putting it in nib up but it doesn’t stay that way very long. It’s generally in the pocket that doesn’t have metal objects like keys and a pocket knife. But it may share the pocket with my cell phone. The plastic pen, which has the added benefit of rounded edges, hasn’t scratched the phone and seems unlikely to do so. The cap is secure, with just normal tightening, and hasn’t worked it’s way loose. With the exception of one ink, I haven’t had any problems with ink leaking from the nib into the cap as the pen jostles around in my pants pocket.There is some ink dots on occasion, but no worse than when I carry pens in my bag. I’m sure the needlepoint nib helps here.
The pen has never failed to write when I uncap it, even after it’s been unused for a couple days. Maybe bouncing around in my pocket keeps the nib wet.
One thing I noticed is that ink appears in the area between where the nib unit screws into the body and the top end of the nib unit. This happens even with an ink cartridge. At first I though this may lead to leaking from the pen. But the bottom of the nib unit seems to make a secure seal even though there’s no threads.
Cleaning the Pen
The pen seems more prone to staining than my other pens. While this varies by ink I almost always have to pull the pen apart so I can scrub some ink stain off (when used as a ED). What I find interesting is that the red and green inks cleaned easily, while the black inks were the worst. See the inks used section for more information.
The pen comes completely apart so cleaning is not hard. But it then means more silicone grease when re-assembling. Even with just the cartridge some ink worked it’s way below the threads and into the area surrounding the nib unit. It’s still sealed so there’s no leaking, but cleaning it out required removing the nib unit even when a cartridge was used.
While I’ve used pen flush in old gunked up pens, this is the first pen I’ve used it on to clean out a recent fill. It also has had regular visits to the ultrasonic cleaner.
[Update: See the Nov. 16 update below. I no longer use this as a eyedropper for various reasons.]
This has been an adventure. The needlepoint nib, pocket jostling, and variety of papers has made this challenging.
I wanted a bright ink so I started with Montblanc Burgundy Red. This had good flow most of the time but got a little thin when writing fast. I may go back to this ink, but I decided to move on to other options. This ink was in my pen over a week and I didn’t have any staining issues with it and there were only a couple spots in the cap.
My next choice was Sailor Jentle Epinard. This had good flow and a good line. It’s problem was some serious skipping when using a Doane Utility notebook which was my pocket notebook at the time. Now that I’m back to Field Notes this ink could return to the pen. It spent about a week in the pen and was also easy to clean and also put only a few spots in the cap.
I decided to try a black ink and picked Private Reserve Invincible Black. I thought it’s good flow from the nib but tendency to cling and not drip would be good for the pen. Boy, was I wrong. This ink was a disaster. By the third day there was a puddle of ink in the cap, the pen was well sealed so I’m sure it was from the nib. Despite only being in the pen a short time I had to scrub the ink from the pen and use some pen flush along with the ultrasonic cleaner. Never again in this pen (and maybe any other pen).
The last ink I used was Noodler’s X-Feather and this ink performed well, spending weeks in the pen. This ink performed well. A good line on all papers. This ink was in the pen over 3 weeks. While no where near as difficult as Invincible Black it did take some effort to remove some mild staining. Finally I needed some pen flush to remove a stubborn ring that had developed where the ink met the nib unit. To be honest, due to the thin ring and location this might have been left behind from the Invincible Black since it’s not noticeable at all when the pen is assembled.
The pen is higher maintenance than I expected, especially since I want to use it as an ED. I’ll still keep trying brighter inks but Noodler’s X-Feather has been the best behaved out of those I tried, although it did require some extra effort to clean. But I really want a brighter ink in the pen for the looks.
The needlepoint nib is nice. I’m not sure any needlepoint nib can be smooth, but on smooth paper or with a light touch it doesn’t dig in and is smooth. Flow is also good although as I I mentioned some specific paper and ink combos do affect flow. The needlepoint nib was a good choice for the way I use this pen. It wouldn’t have been a good choice on a pen I wanted as a daily writer.
I’m glad I tried the pen and nib before buying it rather than ordering it online. It had a different feel than I expected but by the time I put the money down I knew what I was getting and that it would fit with what I wanted from the pen. While I consider it a good value, the pen is not inexpensive and I’d have hated to have any disappointment.
I wholeheartedly recommend the pen if you want a pocket pen. It’s light but durable and the regular size gripping section makes it comfortable to write with. I have no qualms about carrying it in my pants pocket as an ED. I haven’t done it, but I think it will survive quit nicely even with keys in the pocket although it is plastic so don’t blame me if it scratches. It’s harder to wholeheartedly recommend the needlepoint nib. If you know what to expect from a needlepoint nib then I would recommend this Mike Masuyama nib. But it is a needlepoint and needs a light touch.
[Update Nov. 16, 2013]
I’ve given up on using this as a eye dropper. It’s too difficult to clean. The inside of the pen is coarse, not smooth, to help with the “ice” appearance. This seems to give the ink more surface to cling too. This pen needs a dip in the ultrasonic after every fill in order to get the ink out. Without the ultrasonic it would need some scrubbing with a q-tip or something similar. Just flushing with water often wasn’t enough. And I’m concerned that my often typical month between cleaning could result in staining. Maybe that’s because of the staining from PR Invincible black.
While I expected the needlepoint nib to be finicky I hadn’t realized how often and varied situations I’d be using the pen. Noodler’s X-Feather is the only ink I found that works on all papers and surfaces.
So I’ll be trying out some cartridge to see if I can find a friendly ink to alleviate the cleaning hassle but if I don’t find one I like then I’ll go back to X-Feather.