Ten months ago I got a starter set of Noodler’s pens and ink from Massdrop. The pens have been a mixed blessing. One of them I like a lot; the other is crap. It’s telling that just a few days after I ordered its replacement, the crappy one died.
The Pair Together
I’ve heard that Noodler’s pens have a pretty nasty smell out of the box, however, this isn’t my problem.
The first problem I had with Noodler’s pens is that they are designed for people who like to tinker. They can be broken down into pieces and the owners can adjust the nibs to their pleasure. As such, the owner has a lot of responsibility for setting them up and tuning them which makes them much different than other pens. In my case, I rushed to ink them and quickly discovered (after bothering to do some reading) that the pens have to be thoroughly disassembled, cleaned and reassembled before use.
I then spent a while getting ink all over my hands and legs (long story involving personal stupidity) before I got the pens to my liking.
It’s a bit like buying a television that comes in parts with each part not only still dirty from the factory but actually coated in oil. You then have to scrub everything, dry it, put it back together and then adjust the parts until you get the picture looking the way you want. The entire time you’re doing this, the screen is squirting ink on you. (Because that’s how televisions make the picture, right? Ink? Right? Right? Anyone?)
The Konrad (bottom) and the Ahab (top). You can see the steel nib from Goulet Pens on the Ahab.
Creaky, Leaky, and Dead
The first pen is the Noodler’s Konrad. I chose “Poseidon Pearl” which is somewhere on the purple end of blue and looks more like cheap plastic than the resin (celluloid derivative) it’s supposed to be made of. For this pen I managed to set the nib perfectly right away and enjoyed using the flex nib with Noodler’s Apache Sunset ink.
It was comfortable to use and I liked the flared section (more on that later). The flex nib was fun to play with and left Apache Sunset looking dark with touches of brown. I tried the ink in other pens but didn’t like it as much without the flex nib. (More on that in another post.)
Although I liked the ink and the nib, I didn’t like the pen’s piston filling mechanism which has a small twist nob that became increasingly difficult to turn over time, even after a couple cleanings. It would turn a few times and then suddenly catch and I’d have to force it to fill the pen.
The past couple months, it’s suffered from severe nib creep that left ink all over the section and wasted ink quickly. The past couple weeks it seems to have been leaking from around the ink window. Even after wiping it down for use, I’ve ended up with ink on my fingers.
This led me to order its replacement a few days ago.
Then, just a couple hours ago, I made one last effort to save it. I took it apart, washed everything and tried to put it back together. As I was doing so, the piston jammed in the twist mechanism and I can’t move it even with pliers.
Goodbye Konrad. So long and no thanks for all the mess. (I will be keeping your nib though.)
Okay Then Good
The second pen is the Noodler’s Ahab. For this one I chose “Ivory Darkness” which is a mix of black, blue and ivory resin (aka celluloid derivative). I tried this one with the flex nib but could never seem to get it the way I wanted it. At one point I pulled the nib and feed out completely because brain damage, and spilled a fair bit of Noodler’s Midway Blue ink in my lap.
I also removed a tube that helps fill even the handle of the piston/plunger. Doing that improved ink flow but I still had trouble with the flex nib. It didn’t help that the pen has a tapered section with nothing to catch your fingers. If you’re not careful, you end up holding the nib. I got used to this but never got the flex nib working as well as on the Konrad.
In the end, I ordered a replacement polished steel M nib from Goulet Pens. This turned it into a more conventional pen and also made it one of my favorite pens to write with. It has a little nib creep, but not as bad as the Konrad. I also like that it’s a lot thicker than the Konrad. The Konrad is only 2 millimeters shorter than the Ahab, but it feels like a tiny, delicate pen.
I’ve ordered a second Ahab and plan to use it with a flex nib. I hope I can get it working without inking my lap in the process.
The Ahab with the original flex nib. You can see how the section seem to disappear at the nib.