My 2015 DC Pen Show Review

This is going to be a tough review since I didn’t go to the DC Pen Show.

Instead, I sat at home looking at Twitter and Instagram and watched a happy community congregate in DC to celebrate pen and paper.

Deep inside, I seethed. Why didn’t I make plans to go to this show? It’s a mere 8 hour drive, that’s nothing!

I mumbled about the show repeatedly to my wife. She kept saying “I told you to go” but I don’t really understand what she was getting at. She claims I could have sat inside a metal bird and magically arrived in DC quicker than driving but she’s obviously crazy.

This weekend has me thinking about the community and how fast and large it has grown. When I started down this path in 2007, the only way to talk about pens was the Fountain Pen Network and some other site that escapes my memory. Today’s pen addicts have, well, The Pen Addict, and Facebook groups, and subreddits, and Twitter lists, and Instagram, and probably other things I don’t know about. Basically I’m saying you guys are lucky and it’s crazy how technology is bringing more and more of us analog tool fiends together.

So to those of you who ventured to DC, I envy you and I hope you cherished every moment. I had a great time living vicariously through your Tweets and Instagram posts. Maybe the excitement will carry over to every regional pen show and the Detroit Pen Show will be wild this year. A man can dream, can’t he?

Tough Love: Pilot Falcon Edition

Pilot Falcon

Summary

The Pilot Falcon is a pen I lusted after for a long time before finally purchasing one. It’s a clean understated pen that’s light in the hand and offers a unique writing experience if you manage to find one that works out of the box.

Pen In Hand

I’m not someone who pays much attention to pen weights, but I consider the Falcon to be a normal weight pen. Throw in a Con-50 and a bit of ink and the combo weighs in at 19.8 grams. You can get this pen in a metal version but it’s substantially more expensive and considering what I went through to have a working specimen, I’m glad I bought the resin one.

The Falcon is a typical length pen similar to the Platinum 3776, Lamy 2000, or Karas Kustoms Ink. I find pens this size fit my hand well without posting, and even better when posted.

The Falcon has a nice strong clip that will cling to your shirt pocket or wherever you might fancy without any worry of slipping out-of-place.

The section tapers down slightly toward the nib and provides a good amount of grip area between the nib and threads. Depending how you hold your pen, you might place your fingers on the threads but they’re not sharp or bothersome so no worries there.

The Falcon can be posted and it’s comfortable in both scenarios. I prefer it posted but it feels well-balanced either way.

The resin pen comes in 2 trim colors: gold and rhodium. The body is available in black or red but the gold trim is only an option in the black version. Other than color, they’re exactly the same. I bought the rhodium trim and I think it looks the best but if gold is your jam, they have that covered. Either way, it’s pretty darn classy.

The Filling System

The Falcon can use a Pilot cartridge or the Con-20, or Con-50 converters. If you have the metal version, add the Con-70 to that list and enjoy with the increased ink capacity.

I lean toward the Con-50 as a personal preference although I’ve tried all of them in the past. I’ve read the cartridge holds more ink but I like twist converters. I’d choose the cartridge before a Con-20 though; squeeze converters aren’t something I care for.

The Nib

Pilot Falcon Nib

The Falcon has one of the more recognized nibs in the market. Thanks to the unique design and the “soft” designation, this nib is on a lot of wish lists, mine included. It’s available in all sizes from extra fine to broad, all of them soft. I chose the fine nib because I wanted a decent amount of variation but I didn’t think I could stomach an EF nib.

Of course, when you set your sights high, you increase the chances for disappointment and that’s exactly what happened to me. The Falcon I dreamed of for so long showed up and refused to work. The feed would go dry while writing, it couldn’t flow enough ink to handle a bit of flex, and every time I tried to cross a T, it skipped. Talk about a huge let down!

Based on my research, this isn’t rare behavior. I searched far and wide and came up with a list of fixes that revolved around the filling system. Besides flushing repeatedly with cold water and Goulet pen flush, I also tried all the different filling systems (cartridge, Con-20, and Con-50), and a number of inks. Nothing changed and the pen continued to disappoint.

Here’s where I screwed up: I tried to fix the pen myself. A pen that retails for $144 should work out of the box but I got impatient and started messing with it. Somewhere in my fiddling, I either sprung the nib or nudged something to make it even worse.

Eventually I realized what I had done and sent it to Pilot for repair. After inspection, they determined I’d damaged the nib and wanted $75 to fix it. I thought about letting the pen go and writing it off as a loss but I really wanted a Falcon so I broke down and paid for the repair. If I had sent it to Pilot immediately, the warranty would have covered the repair. Live and learn I guess.

When the pen came back from service, it was a completely different experience. Now it writes perfectly every time, with none of the problems from before. This is the pen I dreamed of and all I had to do was pay a lot more than it was worth. After a few minutes with this pen, I forget about the extra cost and I fall in love with it every time I use it.

So about that nib, I bet you’re wondering about the flex. You probably watched this video on YouTube and now you want one. Yeah, me too but this isn’t how the Falcon performs.

If you read the description, you’ll see his pen was modified by John Mottishaw of Nibs.com and this is nothing like the factory nib. Does it flex? Sure, a little. Can you get crazy with it? Nope. Be very careful, springing the nib is a one time trip.

What’s the Falcon nib really like? It’s a soft nib but not a flex nib, be sure you understand the difference. Properly used, the Falcon has a nice amount of spring and can offer plenty of line variation. As long as you know what to expect, this nib will deliver.

Line variation from the Pilot Falcon

Learn from my mistake, if you buy a Pilot Falcon and it doesn’t work after a good flushing or with any of the Pilot filling systems, immediately contact Pilot and let them fix it. Don’t be a dummy like I was!

My Final Thoughts

I’m not someone who uses a fine nib voluntarily but I’ll make an exception for a soft nib since the line variation is worth the trouble. I don’t think this pen has been empty since it came home from repair, I love it that much.

The Falcon is a fun pen, very different from most, and fantastic if it works. But that’s the problem, it should work out of the box but my unscientific estimation based on my research is that this pen carries a 50/50 chance of having problems. That’s not a ratio anyone would want from a pen that costs this much.

On that note, I don’t know if I can recommend this pen to anyone but the most seasoned of fountain pen users. If you buy one, there’s a good chance it will need a trip to Pilot so be ready for that possibility. If it works out of the box, buy a lotto ticket and hope your luck continues. Otherwise, prepare to be separated from your new pen while Pilot makes it work like it should have.

What a sad sentence to end a review on.

Celebrate My First Promotion Request Email

Earlier today I received an email from the folks behind the Infinity Pen. It launched on IndieGoGo today and they seem to have searched the web for pen blogs that publicized other crowd funded pen projects and cold-emailed them. I, with my tens of readers, was one of the lucky folks. Now I’m going to reward them with this very vague article about their pen.

This is my first email from a crowd funded project so I felt like celebrating. After all, you’re no one until someone asks you to pimp their crowdfunding project, right?

infinity pen1

Here we have the Infinity Pen, a pen that tries to be everything. This is an aluminum pen with magnets that secure any number of sections that might contain the following:

  • Blue ink pen
  • Thin black marker
  • Thin red marker
  • Thin blue marker
  • Thin green marker
  • Yellow highlighter
  • Orange highlighter
  • Pink highlighter
  • Green highlighter

Based on what I read, they’re offering this in chrome, matte white, and matte black. While I don’t have much to say about the project, anyone who offers their wares in matte black has pretty good taste.

Is this something I’d back? No, but not because I think it’s a bad idea, I just don’t use these options in my daily life. If you find yourself swapping between a highlighter and a pen, this might be a pretty sweet setup.

Let me be perfectly clear, I’m only writing this post because this is the first cold email I’ve ever received to promote a crowd funded product. I almost feel important right now. I don’t have any connection to the IndieGoGo promoters or the project they are trying to make and the only exposure I’ve had to their product is looking at the same page I linked to earlier. Nothing I say here should be taken as an endorsement, no matter how important and influential I am to you.

If you look at this project and see something you like, back it. If not, oh well. At least I got to feel semi-important for a minute or two. :-)

What Is A Grail Pen?

On episode #151 of The Pen Addict Podcast, Brad explained “grail pens” as such (painstakingly transcribed as best I could):

It’s like a … the ultimate pen for you. So, you know, whether it’s the design or the materials or a the company or the vintage. You know whatever this pen style that speaks to you the most and then like something that will really fulfill your needs uhm in writing and usage and just in beauty and something that really, really speaks to you on a personal level. Uhm you know is a kind of a grail pen. You know people search these things out. Uhm, it’s not necess, it can be, you know a mainline production pen that’s completely fine for a grail pen you know but it’s always something you’re striving to obtain. And you know I’ve talked about it in the past where it … I feel like it takes a little bit of a extra to get that grail pen you know whether it’s saving up or hunting down, or there’s always going to be a story behind a grail pen.

My definition mirrors the last sentence, a grail pen needs to be difficult to obtain. Whether it’s out of your price range, rare, or both, there’s a simple truth:

grailpen

As you drool over the pen, a voice in the back your head reminds you of the obstacles. A grail pen carries the weight of wondering how you’ll pay for it or how you’ll find it. One thing’s certain: we’re all chasing the white rabbit, only our thresholds differ.

Grails are never easy to get your hands on, just ask King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

HolyGrail

Writing Evolution

I like gel pens and fountain pens. That’s it.

Wait.

Lets back this up.

I started on crayons. I think we all did.

I graduated to pencil at some point, I don’t really remember when. Then after some time, I was granted access to a pen. Not a good pen I’m sure, just a pen. A ball point pen.

Maybe a Bic?

It’s likely something the modern version of that little boy shivers at.

I don’t like ball point pens.

I use ball points and pencils for years.

How many?

I don’t remember. I’ve been drawn to the office supply aisles in my local stores any time I ventured near for as long as I remember.

Office supply. How formal can you get? I guess it’s better than “school supply” seeing how I’m not in school any more. I was back then I suppose.

Those office supplies transformed in time. Pencils, ball points, now we have gel pens.

I found the Pilot G2. I am delighted.

At some point I find a Parker Vector hanging in the aisle at Meijer. I think Meijer is a Michigan thing, or at least a midwest thing. Insert your favorite local everything store. That’s where I found my catalyst.

Not now, but later. It will explode later.

I spent years with gel pens. There’s nothing wrong with that, I love gel pens to this day. My pen drawer has many Pilot G2, Uni-Ball Signo 207, and Pilot Juice. I recommend those pens all the time, practically beg people to use them.

I graduate from gel to fountain over time. That Vector, it comes back. It sat in waiting, patient and quiet.

I find the Parker Vector in a box. I also find a package of cartridges. I put them together and find bliss.

I spend 8 years enamored by the fountain pen, shunning all others. The fountain pen is pure, the fountain pen is classic, the fountain pen is right.

Eventually an old friend creeps back into the frame.

He’s made of wood and graphite. He doesn’t replace the fountain pen, instead he brings his own nostalgia. He’s not the same, he’s delightfully different.

There’s the sound against paper that delights me. It’s a scritching sound. That’s the best I can do to describe it. Then there’s the smell of cedar, the remnants after a sharpening.

I dive in, head first. Like I did with fountain pens at one point. My collection swells, just as the fountain pens have. Vintage, modern, rare. I must have them all.

My collection evolves. I own more pencils, more pens, more inks than I can use in a lifetime. Maybe that’s not true, depending how wordy I can be. Maybe I can use my collection before I die but at the rate I’m acquiring, it’s not likely. Every week a new writing product arrives.

I’m obsessed by this hobby. I’m scared of my spending.

I have piles of paper, piles of pencils, piles of pens. Piles of piles and piles for miles. It’s not enough. I want to own them all, to feel them all, to try them all. Each drag of graphite across each kind of paper followed by each nib filled with each ink. Everything needs to be mine, everything needs my touch.

I’m a maniac, driven by paper lust. I must consume that which I have not tried. I must have what’s new and what’s old and everything in between. Bring me your half sharpened pencils, your best and worst ink, your smoothest or scratchiest nib, I must try them now.

This is my evolution of writing. This is my descent into madness.