There has been a revival of fountain pens lately and one of the most interesting trends is the search for flex nibs, that is, nibs that are able to produce a thin and thick line (like a brush) without losing its springiness. These flex nibs are quite elusive and tend to only appear in vintage pens (modern pens do not see a need for this and do not make them anymore). However, my personal preference is for modern pens so I bought a Namiki Falcon soft fine which promised semi-flex. No, not really it doesn’t flex. After using it for a few months, I found out that John Mottishaw, a renowned nibmeister offers a Spencerian script regrind on a Falcon so around Christmas 2012, I took the plunge and ordered another one. Here I will compare my two pens: the stock Falcon and the Spencerian Grind Falcon.
For this review I am writing on a Rhodia pad. The ink in the normal Falcon (above) is noodler’s black swan in australian roses and the ink in the Spencerian falcon (below) is Private Reserve Chocolat.
About the pens
I have my regular resin Namiki Falcon in soft fine for a few months now, and absolutely love it, despite it not being flexy as promised. But nevermind, I have my dip nibs for calligraphy so I wasn’t expecting too much from it. But after awhile, I begin to see the need for a very thin and flexy nib for practicing Spencerian script on the go, without having to carry ink and pen and paper towels everywhere.
I became very curious about Mottishaw’s Spencerian grind which promises ‘Regrind to needlepoint plus added flex – suitable for Nakaya Soft and Falcon Soft nibs only’. Normally it takes about 2 days to arrive but mine was a little late because of Christmas and New Year holidays. I have had it for a few weeks now and have gotten more familiar with it and thought I should do a review.
Besides the nib, everything else is absolutely the same. It arrived in the same box as the regular falcon with the converter and everything. Here is the work order form so you can see exactly what has been done. I love how thorough and helpful they are. I talked to Mariana with some basic questions and she first made sure that I am familiar with flexing and Spencerian script. It is great how thorough she is with my questions to make sure it is truly what I want. I imagine some have asked for this and realized how difficult it is to use, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that she really makes it clear what it does and doesn’t.
First Impressions and comparisons
With very close inspection, you can see how the nib of the Spencerian falcon has been thinned out very finely so it almost loses its point. I’m not a nibmeister by any means, I don’t even tinker with my Ahab so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.
Sharpened to a needle point (the spencerian is the bottom pen)
You can see that the tip is ground down significantly on the Spencerian pen.
Please keep in mind this side picture isn’t a true comparison.. the angle of both pens are not the same, but you can still tell the nib on the tip is less on the Spencerian pen.
It also looks sharper to me. This makes me quite nervous in handling it!
The differences are quite subtle, but the main point is that the tip of the Spencerian is very thin and needle-like, and rather scratchy. It feels pretty much like a dip nib. Even on the fairly smooth Rhodia paper and my very light hand, it scratches away even when I am not applying any kind of pressure. This may be irritating to some who have a heavier hand or are used to the butter smoothness of other fountain pens. I can’t imagine writing with this with a heavy hand, it could very well damage the paper and even tear through it.
However, this pen is not dry.. it is quite wet so the lines are consistently fine. Yet the fine lines leaves almost no shading. More than once I compared this with a 0.4 Pilot High Tec C gel pens, which have a consistent thin line. Since I have gotten this pen, there has been no hiccups or skipping.
There seems to be more ink flowing out of the Spencerian pen compared to the falcon when flexed with the same pressure. The normal Falcon is also quite fine, but because it is slightly thicker and wetter, it lays down more ink so it looks thicker. The wetness also allows the pen to feel much smoother and more pleasant to write with. It feels more like a traditional everyday writer fountain pen. After the scritch-scratchiness of the Spencerian pen, it can be quite a relief coming back to this pen which feels more ‘normal’ and work horse-y.
Honestly I never considered the normal Falcon to be flexy. It requires too much pressure to flex and thus it disrupts the flow and looks awkward. A good flexy pen needs only a light touch to flex so it snaps back to normal and thus have a natural flow from thick to thin. As you can see from the word ‘Namiki’, I was concentrating too much and pressing down too hard to be able to ‘come up naturally’ again to create a smooth faux copperplate. However, it does flex alright if you want it to, but I never got much use out of it since I can’t flex it naturally enough to make my letters look beautiful.
By comparison, the Spencerian falcon flexes a little easier. It doesn’t flex much more, but it takes a little less pressure to do so. I still have to concentrate and rotate the paper to flex properly, but it is relatively easier. I am still not going to use this to replace my dip nibs, but as a normal writing pen, it flexes enough to create some variety in my writing. Unfortunately it does not create the large impressive swells which you often see in Spencerian script, but a pen that does that might as well be magical. Here is what I mean by the variety the little flex provides (written on the same kind of paper).
Comparing with a dip nib
Here I compare a Principality Gillott #1 dip nib with the Spencerian pen. I write as fine as I can with the nib but you know it’s really responsive so it was hard to control. But you can tell the thinnest line is comparable to the Spencerian pen. Of course, the pen can never swell as large as the dip nib but then again it’s not built to do so. There was a little railroading, I’m not sure why it occurred. Maybe I was going too fast. It doesn’t happen often.
Here are my final thoughts. The Spencerian pen is by no means a replacement for dip nibs, which is traditionally what the old spencerian masters use (they don’t use fountain pens). I would recommend the spencerian falcon to those who have these specific requirements:
- Does not want to consider vintage nibs
- Will ONLY use it for spencerian/business writing with close to no flex
- Don’t mind paying the money.
For those who don’t mind hunting down vintage pens, actually want to flex more than once or twice per sentence and want to attempt copperplate, then vintage or dip nib is the way to go.
I hope this helps somehow. I’m not an expert with pens so this is all based on my personal experience.