Late last night the urge to refill the Noodler’s Standard Flex Pen struck. Apache Sunset hasn’t seen daylight for a long time, so this was a good opportunity to revisit an ink that has an outstanding reputation for use with a flexible nib. I was not disappointed.
Archive for the ‘Western Pens’ Category
Nathan Tardif videos are packed with useful information, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, this screen capture tells you all you need to know about the flexible Ahab nib.
The video is chock full of tips, but this screen capture of line variation shows what the flexible nib can do even when just producing doodles. The pen is a clear Noodler’s Ahab filled as an eyedropper with Noodler’s Black ink. Not bad, eh?
After watching a few Nathan Tardif videos yesterday, I pulled out a Noodler’s Standard Flex pen that was languishing in a drawer. Following Nathan’s lead, I filled it with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses to impressive results.
Noodler’s pens come in three sizes of which the Standard is the smallest. The Ahab is the largest while the Konrad is in between. One thing I’ve discovered in the past year is that with the added pressure needed to get those lovely wide lines, a smaller pen works quite well for me and often better than one with a chunkier girth. Consequently, the Standard that I purchased when it was first released has become an excellent size for flex writing even though in the past, it seemed too narrow. One of these models will suit your hand and all come with flexible nibs.
The piston filler works smoothly and the cap screws on tightly. It has a solid feel to its construction and should last a long time. I have the clear version also known as a demonstrator or demo. Years ago clear-bodied pens were used to demonstrate the inner workings. Admittedly it is fun to see that, but the real treat is seeing the color of the ink. For the Standard demo, Noodler’s Apache Sunset, Golden Brown or Black Swan in Australian Roses are beautiful as well as perfect for flex writing.
The nib is stainless and can produce significant line width. The writing sample shows what can be done with very little effort. Note the lack of railroading even when I write rapidly. This is a very well-tuned pen and required no adjustment to achieve excellent results.
The only caveat is the odor. After two years, the cellulose still has that characteristic scent though it has faded considerably with time. The fun of writing with such a flexible nib overrides my dislike, so the Standard Flex will become a regular participant in my rotation. Rubbing my fingers over the stainless steel faucet at my kitchen sink seemed to reduce the mild odor that lingered after a brief session. That trick works on things like onions and garlic, too.
For the connoisseur, the nib isn’t as supple as a Waterman’s Pink Nib, but it is very affordable and easily replaced if lost or damaged. This is the flex nib I would take on the road whether to the neighborhood coffee shop or on a cross country jaunt.
For the newbie, this is the least expensive pen to explore flex writing. Just go easy with applying pressure. Learn the pen’s limits so the tines don’t get damaged when you go for that 1.o mm line.
Forget the low-priced junk on eBay and pick up a Noodler’s Standard Flex pen. At $16 or so, it’s a steal.
Comments and email queries often suggest subjects worthy of further exploration. Such was the case when a recent email cast my collection in the light of pens that hold up well and are worthy of recommendation. After restricting choices to pens that can be purchased online and whose nibs have not been modified, here are the models that made my list of
Really Good Fountain Pens
- Platinum #3776 and #3776 Century – These pens rank at the top of my list. The build is slightly lighter than the Sailor pens I own, but that is good for my hand. No flow issues and the nibs are excellent. Someday I hope to get a medium for a real workhorse. It may not replace the #3776 music nib as my most used pen, but I would love to give it a shot at the top slot.
- Lamy Safari and AL-Star – An entry-level pen that is one of my most durable and reliable writers. The extra-fine has been a staple here for years. I haven’t tried a fine or medium, but the broad might be a tad too wide and free-flowing for most people. The 1.1 mm can have an erratic flow, but the nibs are usually smooth. The nibs run a bit wider than most and they are quite stiff, but they are also easy to swap. Nibs come in stainless steel and black. The latter looks particularly sharp on a model with a black clip. Put one on a charcoal Safari to make a stealth model. Two of my Lamys have been so modified. The build is very good at the price which won’t matter if the oddly shaped section doesn’t fit your grip. My daughter and I found it to be comfortable after the initial sessions. The control afforded by the section shape is excellent and prevents slipping. That is a decided plus for me.
- Pelikan M400 and M215 – These are very different pens, but equally well built. Both wrote well from the beginning. The M215 feels more sturdy, but it is a metal pen. I am extra careful with piston-fillers and run Noodler’s Eel ink through them from time to time to lubricate the plungers. The M400 was adjusted for extra flow several years ago and is now a terrific pen for long sessions.
- Pilot Namiki Falcon – I have three of the resin model and that says a lot. The build is good and the section very comfortable for me. The nibs can be a tad scratchy, but a little use fixed that in one of mine. The other two were smooth from first use. The design is understated and puts the focus on what the nib can do. No flow issues with the supplied converter so the nib and feed are well matched.
- Sailor 1911 and Sapporo – These pens have outstanding build quality. No flow issues and the converters are very well-suited to the nibs and feeds. My Sapporo is a fine nib and a nail. The 1911 is an extra-fine that is a bit soft. They are very different nibs, but both are very smooth.
- Baoer Eight Horses – Not everyone has had the good luck I have had with a Baoer. However, I do have two that write remarkably well. This is a heavy pen, but well balanced. The build quality is excellent for the price. The converter even has a plastic ball to keep the ink flowing. I am not as thrilled with the Jinhao 750 which is made by the same company, but one of these days I’ll purchase a silver Eight Horses with a B nib if I can find one. That will make a full set.
- Pilot Custom 742 – This one is a bit harder to recommend given my 742FA can be flow challenged. However, the build is excellent and the size perfect for me. I think it would be a terrific pen sporting a different nib. The FA is very smooth and does flex, but no ink so far has conquered the feed. There are five on my desk ready to take up the challenge so more testing is ahead. When I advance ink into the feed, it writes well enough with virtually no pressure. The slit is always inky, but this pen arrived used if not abused. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I think it has an imperfect nib on an otherwise very nice pen.
The price range for these pens purchased new is $6 to over $300. Message boards are the best place to buy used, but eBay can be good for inexpensive pens like Lamy and Baoer depending on your risk tolerance level. If you want perfection, buy from a seller who tests the nib and who has a good reputation for standing by his wares. As careful as I am, one in four pens arrives in need of assistance. That really isn’t surprising considering how a tiny mistake in the nib can make a pen write poorly. Basically, don’t get your knickers in a twist if you get a stinker. It happens to all of us. Get help from the seller immediately. Most will make it right one way or another.
So that’s my list. Is there a pen you would recommend without reservation?
Some items new for 2013 along with favorites from years past:
- Writing ink – Noodler’s Purple Martin, Squeteague, Beaver, Black, Tiananmen and Black Swan in Australian Roses. Diamine Mediterranean Blue, Vermilion and Emerald. Iroshizuku syo-ro, Sailor Sky High and Stipula Verde Muschiato.
- Drawing ink – Noodler’s Lexington Gray and Kiowa Pecan
- Round nib fountain pen – Platinum #3776 Century Chartres Blue B
- Stock stub or italic exotic nib – Platinum #3776 music nib
- Stock flexible nib – Namiki Falcon SF
- Custom stub or italic – Levenger True Writer Masuyama stub
- Brush pen – Pilot “New Brush in Character”
- Writing paper – Tomoe River
- Doodle journal/notebook – Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook
- Most beautiful journal/notebook – Paperblanks Silver Filigree in Maya Blue
- Paper for lists at my desk – Anything from Rhodia
- Watercolor brush – Isabey 8234 Petit Gris Squirrel Quill Mop #0 and #2, Daniel Smith 44-08 Kolinksky Sable #3 and #5
- Watercolor tube paint – Winson & Newton Scarlet Lake, Cobalt Violet, Permanent Rose and DS Green Gold
- Watercolor pan paint – Jackson’s Genuine Carmine and French Ultramarine Blue
- Watercolor line – Tie between Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton tube paints but currently exploring Jackson’s Pan Watercolors
Watercolor brush – Isabey 8234 Petit Gris Squirrel Quill Mop #0 and #2, Daniel Smith 44-08 Kolinksky Sable #3 and #5
Watercolor tube paint – WN Scarlet Lake, Cobalt Violet, Permanent Rose and DS Green Gold
Watercolor pan paint – Jackson’s Genuine Carmine, French Ultramarine Blue
So that’s what’s on my list. What made it to yours?
Note: Reviews of Tomoe River paper, Paperblanks journals and Jackson’s Watercolors are in the works.
Historical Note: In 1884 Lewis Waterman developed the fountain pen. He took 10 years to perfect his invention.
Recently, Sheaffer offered the Taranis fountain pen to review. Saying “no” was not an option. Sheaffer has a good reputation for making fountain pens, but my experience is with vintage models including a 1950′s Sheaffer Sentinel. What would I think of a modern pen?
The Taranis is named after the Celtic God of Thunder. Grab the details from Sheaffer, but the main points are that it’s a metal pen with excellent balance and it sports a semi-hooded nib that resembles a Pilot Vanishing Point. The pen comes with a converter plus two cartridges and is solidly packaged for safe shipping.
The logo runs the length of the section so it will be under your finger though I did not find it to be uncomfortable. Stepped sections or sharp threads are far worse and this model has neither of those annoying issues. The section is otherwise smooth with the threads placed very high and not in range of my grip. Balance is good whether posted or not. Build quality is very solid, tank-like, and should make it last forever. The snap cap seats solidly with a minimum of effort and I was able to pop off the cap one-handed which I find very convenient. The Taranis is a good candidate for a carry pen since it will survive better than most pens those knocks and blows that come from excursions into the wild.
The Taranis Sheaffer sent needed cleaning with soapy water to get the flow right. Whether from minute bits of debris or oils from manufacturing, an overnight soak improved performance. This can be true of any new pen so it should not be off-putting, but rather a reminder to clean new pens before filling. My usual light rinse with cool water did not cleanse the feed sufficiently and my enthusiasm at acquiring a new pen got the better of me.
The stainless steel nib is a smooth nail that doesn’t have that tendency to skate that some pens possess. The medium wrote a bit dry with Sheaffer Blue-Black, but less so with Diamine Steel Blue. It may turn into a good match for free-flowing inks, of which I have more than a few. The nib width is on the narrow side of medium and I was able to write quite small with it. It tolerates a variety of writing angles, even upside down for a finer line which makes it an all-purpose nib.
And the clincher?
That is Moleskine paper! Have you recovered from the shock? Minimal show-through and only a few tiny dots of bleed-through. Impressive!
There is quite a price range amongst retailers so shop around for a good deal. Given the build quality and the sturdy nib, the Sheaffer Taranis could make an attractive way to turn a non-user into a fountain pen enthusiast. After all, Christmas is just around the corner…