The Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage has the distinction of being the most expensive fountain pen in my accumulation. It also has the dubious distinction of being my only fountain pen that has broken during normal use. This pen has done it’s best to make me hate it. So time for a review, although you’re probably guessing that it won’t end well.
Conway Stewart no longer exists, having gone out of business (for a second time) with the pieces being sold off to others. The brand will probably be resurrected for a third time. Bespoke British Pens is selling some Conway Stewart Models although it’s confusing (at least to me) as to whether they are maintaining the brand or just selling off old stock or pens made from old stock. The Marlborough Vintage is still available from them although with different branded nibs and only a cartridge/converter version.
This is my second Conway Stewart fountain pen, the first being the FPH Anniversary Edition. I liked that pen enough to spring for the more expensive Marlborough Vintage In June of 2012.
I’ll get this out early – vintage is part of the model name, it is not even close to a vintage pen. I hate it when pen companies do this.
Why I Got It
I liked my first Conway Stewart and this one was a similar size. Plus, it was ebonite which I like the feel of. Lastly, I could get it as a lever filler and I really liked the look of the woodgrain ebonite. I ordered mine with an extra fine nib (more on this later).
What I Got
This is a limited edition fountain pen and I received number 41 of 300. I received a medium nib, rather than the extra fine that I ordered, but in my impatience I didn’t notice until after I inked it up. After some internal debate I decided to keep the medium nib. I liked the way it wrote, it wasn’t too wide, plus I had the idea of getting it stubbed.
I love the feel of the ebonite and I like the woodgrain finish. I’ll stop short of saying it reminds me of real wood but I like the black “grain” on the brown “wood”. Combined with the lever fill it give the pen a nice vintage aesthetic. The furniture is gold which isn’t my favorite choice, but as with other brown pens, it works in this case.
The ink capacity is painfully small and is my main complaint with this pen. Either the cartridge/converter or eye dropper options would provide a larger capacity. I get a little over four pages of solid writing on a 8.5“ X 11” piece of paper. For awhile I thought there might be a problem but, after further research and checking I found that this was to be expected. I just didn’t uncover it in my initial research.
The pen feels well made and has a solid fit and finish. As I mentioned, the pen is broken but it does feel well made.
Getting the wrong nib and the small ink capacity really turned me off to this pen early on. When the Long Island Pen Show rolled around the following March I brought the pen with me and had Richard Binder stub the nib. This gives the pen a little more personality and made me warm up to the pen. At the time it was one of my few stub nibs and the first in a pen I could comfortably use for longer writing sessions (even if it did need a refill midway through). I ended up being happy with my choice to stub the nib rather than tryng to get the extra fine that I ordered. I might have gotten a little more writing from each fill with the thinner extra fine nib, but it wouldn’t have been enough to turn this pen into a daily carry.
The stub nib makes the pen enjoyable to use and the small capacity means I don’t feel guilty about needing to flush the pen. I can write it dry in an evening or two.
- Length Capped: 133.52 mm
- Length Uncapped: 25.11 mm
- Length Posted: 180.34 mm
- Section Length: 19.20 mm
- Section Diameter (near nib): 11.11 mm
- Section Diameter (below threads): 11.39 mm
- Section Diameter (mid-section): 10.18 mm
- Cap Diameter: 15.04 mm
- Barrel Diameter: 13.15 mm
- Weight: 22 g (w/ink)
- Weight (body only): 12 g (w/ink)
Writing With The Pen
Removing the cap takes one full rotation and then the pen is ready to write. The cap does post securely but not deeply. This makes the pen look freakishly long when it’s posted. It also feels unbalance, but that’s from someone who doesn’t post his pens when using them.
The factory medium nib was smooth and had a good flow. I never experienced any hard starts or skipping. Needless to say the nib also flowed fine after being stubbed by Mr. Binder.
The fountain pen is comfortable in my hand, being similar in size to the Pelikan M805 and a tad smaller than the Visconti Homo Sapien. The ebonite is light making this a light pen, especially when it’s not posted since nearly half the weight is in the cap. The pen is not quit perfect in my hand, but better than most. The Pelikan M805 is a little heavier (about 22g) so feels more solid which I like these days and the slightly bigger Bronze Age is a perfect size for my hand. My fingers do touch the threads just a bit when I grip the pen, but that aren’t sharp so I don’t even notice them.
I’ve never had problems with any inks although being a lever filler I pick inks I know are easy to clean out and that I will like. I tend to give the pen multiple fills of each ink, due to the small capacity, and I don’t want to be forced to flush an ink I don’t like or has problems.
This is a pen I almost always use at home and for casual writing. By that I mean when I’m concentrating on the writing, rather than taking notes, and I plan to do it for awhile. Plus, I’m willing to be interrupted should I need to refill the pen. I have taken it out and about at times and it’s one of the few pens that has drawn comments in public. The lever and wood grain finish catches people’s attention.
Cleaning The Pen
It’s a lever filler, so cleaning takes a little longer than pens more easily flushed. It’s not any harder to clean than other lever filler. The nib unit does unscrew should you want to flush the pen with a syringe but I avoided doing that and just worked the lever.
This is when the pen broke. I was cleaning the pen in order to use another ink before this review. The lever snapped during cleaning. I could feel it come loose in the pen. While I did work the lever a lot while cleaning the pen I never treated it roughly. The pen probably would have lasted longer if I removed the nib for cleaning.
For this review I used several fill of Sheaffer Peacock Blue. The nib gives the ink some nice line variation. It’s probably been my favorite ink in this pen. Although, I do have a tendency to consider anything I’m currently using a favorite.
I recently used Montblanc Leonardo Red Chalk. While I like the ink, this pen didn’t seem to do much for it and I flushed it out the first time I wrote it dry. This is the one ink which I liked less in this pen than in previous fountain pens.
I’ve also used various Waterman and Pilot Iroshizuku inks, all of which performed well. As I mentioned, for lever fillers I pick inks I already know I like and which perform well. None of them disappointed in this pen.
As I mentioned, the Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage is the most expensive fountain pen in my accumulation. From that perspective the pen was a disappointment even before the lever broke, I don’t consider it worth the money I paid. After the very rough start the pen did grow on me and I do like it. It’s a pen I would ink up for occasional use but it never really grabbed my attention.
Is it a keeper? The lever fill option was a huge mistake. The capacity is too small for me and well, the lever broke. It’ll be around until it get fixed. But assuming it wasn’t broken, I would be seriously considering selling it off to fund a future pen purchase. While I wouldn’t typically try to repair such an expensive pen myself I’ll probably consider it in this case, after some research and practice with other pens. The Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage isn’t worth pouring more money into it.
Black Lever Filler reviewed on FPN
The pen broke before the draft of this review, which I typically use as a writing sample. So the writing sample is just an index card.