So I ordered a couple of very exciting new pens and inks from GouletPens.com. It was my first time ordering from them, mostly because whilst their prices are a bit better on the whole than CultPens (UK), they don’t offer free priority international shipping like Cult. But more specifically, it was because I had my eyes (and my heart) set on one particular fountain pen that Cult does not, at the moment, carry: The Pilot Namiki Falcon with a Soft Extra Fine nib. I’ve always been on the Platinum bandwagon- fountain pens are a tiny bit like hardware and software manufacturers in that you can get drawn into a brand’s particular ‘ecosystem’, and some ecosystems are more walled than others. You already have proprietary ink cartridges, maybe, or proprietary converters, or you feel safer going with what’s familiar in terms of nib sizes and flow behaviour with different inks.
But I’d heard so much about the legendary Namiki pen, seen so many artist’s posts with it, and what with getting up to my neck in pens and inks, my stationary loving heart just gravitated towards it. The Namiki Falcon surpasses expectations- which is saying something given that my expectations were already very high- and deserves its own forthcoming post on this blog.
This post, however, I want to look at something I tossed into my cart almost as an afterthought, because at $16 it wasn’t very expensive- considering I was already paying over $150 for shipping.
This is the Noodler’s Nib Creaper pen, in Hudson Bay Fathom Blue. It’s a small, diminutive pen; most people go with the bigger Ahab, but I know that among fountain pen users, my hands and fingers are smaller and slimmer than most, so I thought the Nib Creaper would be a better fit. I wasn’t wrong; small and slim though it is, I quite like the grip and lightness of it. It’s made of a vegetal resin which had a strong smell when first unboxed, but has now almost faded entirely. What remains isn’t exactly an unpleasant smell; it’s a bit plastick-y, but not in a bad way. The blue is one of my favourite shades of blue- a nice deep saturated one with undertones of turquoise and aquamarine in it.
There’s no getting around the fact that at $16, this is a cheap pen. So I really appreciate that it’s a simple, no nonsense piston type filler, which means no hidden costs of dealing with proprietary converters or cartridges- just dunk the tip into any bottle of ink, twist the end of the barrell, and the pen will draw ink. I filled it with Diamine Eclipse ink, a deep violet that looks almost black when used to write with (think the purplish black of a cheap ballpoint pen) but bleeds a very pretty blue when activated with a water brush.
Onto the Noodler’s Nib Creaper’s standout feature: the flex nib. In short: I like it. Longer answer: I quite like it, for certain styles of sketching, but it’s not without its flaws. The pen seems to have flow issues, so I learned quickly to have scrap paper on hand to scribble on before taking to sketching. Hard starts, skipped strokes, especially when it hasn’t been flexed in a while. Having said that, the flow issues aren’t nearly aggravating enough to not have the pen in my daily rotation. Actually the feel of the nib reminds me very much of a ballpoint pen- it doesn’t have the glassy smoothness of a good Lamy steel nib, the softness or springiness of higher end gold nibs, or even the pleasant toothy feeling of a Platinum. It doesn’t actually feel like any fountain pen I’ve tried before, not even the really cheap ones. I like that it flexes easily and that railroading is minimal, especially on shorter strokes, but I do wish that it had a finer point when unflexed. I also wish the end of the barrell which twists to activate the piston was more clearly marked with a chrome trim or something; it blends in almost seamlessly into the blue body with barely an indication of where to twist it. I can see the potential for a minor disaster if the piston is twisted to expel ink when it’s full, but hopefully it won’t come to that- I’m pretty light on my pens.
Ink flow may improve with different inks; my order included my first bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku take- sumi (bamboo charcoal; black) ink, which is a very well behaved, wet, nicely flowing ink. At some point I’ll probably pair the Noodler’s with the Iroshizuku and see how things improve, but for now I’m fairly satisfied with it. I did remember reading on the retailer’s website that Noodler’s are tinker- friendly pens, and it’s better to flush them out before the first filling. I skipped that, but even so, it’s more than useable and should only get better with consistent use. Am I saying I prefer this to traditional flexible dip pens and ink? No. Am I lazy enough to use this when I can’t be arsed with dip pens? Yes.
Overall, a fairly solid 7.5/10 and not a bad buy. I hope to get in some more pages of sketches and figure out what works best with this kind of flex nib; whether it’s people and urban sketching, or concepting, ideating, animals, etc.
The thing with fountain pens… is that they’re so often seen as a luxury thing for people who can afford them, but unlike most luxury utility products in this capitalist world of ours, fountain pens aren’t produced with planned obsoletion in mind. They’re part of a tiny, diminishing family of tools that actually get better the more you use them, instead of wearing down or out and breaking down and forcing you to upgrade. Well made fountain pens last decades, if not lifetimes, when cared for properly. And while the initial upfront cost might seem daunting compared to just getting a cheap gel or ball pen that works out of the box, a real workhorse with a convertor and bottled ink is not only cheaper in the long run, but much more environmentally friendly as well. I find it hard to fault even the cheaper plastic fountain pens- such as this Noodler’s or Platinum’s Preppy range, or Pilot’s excellent Kakuno line- given how nicely they write and how long they last with proper care. Preppy’s are so reliable that I used them as my ‘exam’ pen at university; nailing the balance between steady dependability and good, fast writing. Pilot Kakuno’s have a sculpted grip to help early learners write better, and the nib features a smiling, winking face, with a tongue sticking out on my EF model just to amuse kids. At 25 it’s a little embarrassing to admit that the cute smiling face and the little tongue sticking out makes me look forward to writing with this pen. It’s one of those things I would’ve been obsessed with as a kid, like a cool eraser or a glittering toothbrush or a Harry Potter pencil box. I mean I don’t know who thought of putting that face on the nib but it’s so very Japanese and such a cute touch.
I don’t know: I guess what I’m trying to say here is that in a world filled with tech (which I also love) that’s designed to fail on you at some point, things that will serve you well so long as you remember to service them every now and then, are things I can appreciate.