Saturday, December 17, 2016

New favorite pen

Last month, I ordered a new pen from Amazon: the Conklin Mark Twain.

This is it:



I love this pen.  It's a reproduction of the first self-fill type: the crescent fill.  It predates the lever fill by several years, even though Sheaffer wound up cornering the market with a better advertising department.

In my opinion, the crescent fill was a far better system.  There's a rotating ring with a slot that prevents the crescent from being depressed, squashing the presser bar against the ink sac, thereby expelling the ink.  There's nothing preventing you from accidentally raising the lever and expelling all the ink.

The pen is substantial, hefty without being too heavy.  Comfortably broad for larger hands, or small hands that don't like skinny pens anymore.  Filling is simple: line up the slot in the ring below the crescent, depress the crescent, and stick the nib in the ink up to the feed, and let go.  Repeat a few times with the pen in the ink, and you're good.  Wipe the excess, and start writing. 

I bought this in a fine nib.  It's a butter-smooth nib in stainless steel, and lays down a line finer than my Lamy EF.  The nib is fairly soft, which means if you want, you can achieve a bit of line variation, but it is not a flex nib, so you need to be careful not to spring it. 

It isn't a pen for beginners.  I've seen in reviews that some people have gotten their hands on one with a misaligned nib (scratchy), which needs a careful eye and careful fingers to fix.  It is easily fixable, but it takes a pen owner that understands what's going on.  I've seen complaints that it doesn't like to start writing when they set it down for a few minutes (cap it, you idiots), or that it's a hard starter in general (not my experience, but probably just needs cleaned).  I've seen complaints that it leaks--that leads me to a suspicion that they're inexperienced with self-fill systems, which can burp ink when they're near empty, from a little bit of air expansion when it warms from your hands while you're using it. 

My personal experience of using it, in the (slightly less than a) month I've had it in my possession is nothing like any of that.  It is, honestly, the best writer in my stable, beating out my favorite nameless antique lever fill by quite a bit in smoothness of nib, in the feel of the pen, and in the filling mechanism.

And that leaves aside the entire question of cool: this is a reproduction of Mark Twain's favorite pen.  The one he endorsed in ad copy in 1902.  And his signature is engraved on the back of the cap's trim ring (something not visible in the picture from Amazon).  As brilliant of a writer as this pen is, it's the other features that prompted me to buy it: the fact that it was the first self-fill mechanism type on the market, and the fact that it was one of the first celebrity endorsements in the history of advertising for pens. 

I am very, very glad I spent the money I did, even if I had my doubts about it as soon as I'd hit the order button. 

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