DISCLAIMER: This post marks the entrance of articles written in English on my French speaking site. They will appear from time to time, but will not take over:-) The reason behind this change is that my interest in fountain pens developed at THE FOUNTAIN PEN NETWORK, where I profited from numerous reviews similar to one I’m about to write. I consider this article as a kind of “pay-back” for many things I learned over there, but it would be pointless in French.
One thing you will notice surely on FPN is the high regard people have about GOULET PENS. I add my praises to all the others, for the kindness and efficacy of their ways. My two Ahabs, along with Konrad Brush pen and a bottle of J. Herbin’s Gris Nuage, arrived this morning, making it a fastest delivery from USA ever to hit my doorsteps:-) Well packaged and with a personalized letter from the team. Thanks! As TWSBI was sold-out when I placed my order, I decided to get two Ahabs, to justify the shipping cost. I was already set in advance to get the clean demonstrator and was somewhat reluctant on Cardinal Darkness. Strangely, once in hand, I prefer the red one. I guess it’s just my personal dellusion, but the coloured pen seems more solid and even a bit heavier than the transparent one.
From a few initial impressions that surfaced already, I concluded it would be better to rinse my Ahabs before filling them, to clean the eventual machine-oil residue in the feed. With a drop of dish detergent solved in water, I cleaned both feeds. Examining tells there’s a slight difference between them, how the fins are carved, as these are hand-made pens after all. Disassembling the pen is fairly easy and straightforward (and there are included directions), which is a major selling point for Ahabs. You buy this kind of pen because you like to fiddle with your “tool” and fine tune it to your specific needs. It is considered as a part of the specific “aura” Noodler’s pens are famous for. Once dry, I reassembled both pens but filled only the red one, eager to get going. The first lines, the first impressions. Hmmm, it’s wider than my notion of fine… It glides smoothly… It’s fairly wet, but not gushing… It flexes fairly eas… STOP. Ahab just stopped, frozen in it’s tracks. After that point in the lower left corner of the first drawing, it just would not leave a mark of any kind.
Shaking, wiping, side-testing not to ruin the drawing, more shaking… Nothing. So I pull out the nib, examine the feed which seems wet enough, realign the nib and push it back. Another round of side-testing and it starts. Back to drawing. Ahab works, but skips. Not regularly, but fairly often. A few times I have to force it to start, yet drawing is somehow done.
Let’s try another one. Ahab now works without stopping, but still skips. Clearly it needs some fine-tuning. On the other hand, the shape, the size, the weight, the gentle curvatures and material pleasant to touch make this a beautiful pen to hold and use. The discussed “odour” of vegetal resin is present, but not annoying. In fact I would go as far as to call it “inspiring” – anyone who ever did charcoal studies would remember the accompanying smell and Ahab brings back those memories. It’s not the same scent, but the specific “presence” of the tool used is the same. With several additional forced starts Ahab terminates the second sketch. I feel that nib is too wide for my taste and would require larger formats. The nib can be used “inverted” to fill in the tiniest details, but feels pretty scratchy that way. Held regularly the nib is pleasantly smooth. The flexing does not require too much pressure and tines snap back nicely, keeping the strokes fluid.
Then I pulled out my Platinum 3776 with soft-fine nib, the one I draw mostly with and which I like a lot. It’s nib is much finer and while more springy than flexy, it still offers a visible line variation. It cannot go as broad as Ahab, but is very responsive. And for months and months that I have it, it never skipped, stopped or failed to start. But it’s fair to say it was five times more expensive. Also, I prefer much more the Japanese nomenclature of nib sizes and consider the fine point of Ahab to be more of a medium on my personal scale.
Recently I acquired another semi-flex pen from a fellow FPN member so I took it out to join the conversation. It is a Pontiac pen with a steel semi-flex nib and performs right in the middle of the two already tested. It also has a fine point, but finer than Ahab and broader than 3776. It is somewhat scratchier than both and slightly less springy, not so quick to snap back after flexing. Works without problems, though. And lastly one well known “drawing” fountain pen, but not of a flexible type, joined the party. Rotring Art Pen with EF nib, just for the sake of comparison with a widely used sketch-pen. As it is an Europen pen, it’s EF tip is still somewhat wider than Platinum’s Japanese fine.
All the pens were filled with Platinum CARBON BLACK ink and worked on the same Fabriano Schizzi 120 gr paper, so it’s a fair comparison of the nib performances. I confess I don’t know why the ink feathered badly this time as I have used it previously on the same paper without problems. But as it was even for each pen, the conclusions are still valid, although it should be addressed in the eventual next round. Preliminary conclusion is that I still like my 3776 the best, for the fineness of it’s line, simple elegance and totally trouble-free functionality. If I had to choose just one, Platinum would be it. Ahab has the best body and I would love to have Platinum’s nib and feed in that casing. Pontiac is a good pen and if the nib smooths itself a bit with use (or I learn how to do it myself without ruining it) it would get more praise. Disregarding the issuses with a flow (which I hope I will manage to solve with another round of tuning), and judging only Ahab’s nib performance, I would say it’s a very good pen to draw with on a larger format. It glides smoothly, sits well in the hand, nib snaps back nicely and does not get in the way of fluidity of drawing… until it skips. But bear in mind that I’m just a beginner in this “roll up your sleeves and get under the hood” aspect of fountain pens; I still have to practice tuning the feed to get the flow I want.
I planned to end this preliminary report with a picture of all the contestants. But after snapping them side by side, I thought that leaving this at “Ahab is nice, but troublesome” would not be fair, so I filled the other one. And voila! The clear demonstrator works flawlessly and even with a finer line! Yummy! I finish the portrait of a civil war era gentleman and go immediately for a vintage boxer. The nib just glides. Finally I’m impressed as I thought I would be:-) Let’s write it down! And then – BLOB. Ahab spurts a large drop of ink on my enthusiastic sentence. Must roll those sleeves, I guess.
For the record, I wold like to state that I’m still not depressed about the development of situation, mostly because I expected it, reading the other experiences. I am somewhat sorry for the cold shower with the second pen, when everything seemed to work just like I wanted it. I guess I just need to learn to make it work as good as it did for that brief but enjoyable period, but that was the part of the plan all along.
NOTE: The saga of Ahab continued HERE.