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Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen


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#1 SamCapote

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 02:50

I finally got Nathan's permission to lift my promised "Cone of Silence" about this pen. I felt like I was going to explode not being about to talk about it. Here is his paper insert to wet your whistle. Photos of pens will follow.


Posted Image Posted Image



Let me say up front that regardless of the cost, this is an unbelievable pen, based on size, feel, functionality, durability, utility, writing, adaptability between a plunger-rod ink filling compartment or made into an eyedropper. When you consider that it is selling for $20, and designed for user serviceability...IMHO, it is creating a rift in the fountain pen space-time continuum, and charting a whole new direction. I consider this as a revolutionary pen, and am enjoying using it as much as my 1970 era Montblanc 149, Pelikan M1000, and some of my vintage Waterman flex pens.

This is the first Noodler's Pen that I REALLY love, and it is going to get a LOT of attention.
Once I receive my orders from GouletPens.com and IsellPens.com, I will have 8 of these in various colors. You can go to those websites to see the offerings. Apparently more translucent colors are coming.

The barrel, cap, and section are made of a celluloid derivative that Nathan calls a vegetal resin. It has a nicer, softer, warmer feel than my MB 149, or any of the modern pens I have used. It is more like the feel of a Waterman 52 Vintage pen, but not with a shiny, polished surface. It does not slip around in your fingers. The resin seems very sturdy, and not showing any marks from posting or other use. I dropped it once (on purpose) from table height onto a marble floor, and could not see any sign of damage. I would never DREAM of dropping one of my more expensive pens as a test.

The Ahab size is about the same width and length capped & posted as a Pelikan M800. The cap posts securely, and in my hand achieves a perfect balance. The pocket clip is a distinctive whale shape. The underside has a rounded knob, and despite being folded over, does not catch on my shirt when sliding all around. There is a double fold of the end of the clip metal, tucked up under the ball of the inside, so no sharp edges anywhere. Nothing is glued in the pen--all screw fittings. I'll take some closeups photos later.

The Ahab nib and feed is a whole other design from previous smaller Noodler Flex pens--which I was just not crazy about for various reasons. This larger Ahab nib is not scratchy--at all, and the feed delivers ink just like you hoped it could. It writes a fine line (same as my Pelikan M1000 XF nib) with light to normal pressure. With medium pressure, it flexes out to give a line the width of my Pelikan M800 Italic Broad--which is supposed to be 1.5mm size--and with ink flow that keeps up easily. No more skipping or trying to get it started. I have let it sit unused, nib end up for 3 days, and it immediately started writing without priming or tapping. I don't know if that will happen with every ink, but the 5-6 that I have used so far (Noodler's Violet Vote, Black, Waterman Havana, Montblanc Collodi Brown, Parker Penman Sapphire, Hakase Real Squid Sepia, and R&K Alt Grun) work great. The only thing I have noticed is that the ink evaporates more quickly than most other pens, but I consider this a small issue compared to all the benefits.

The nib has a typical ball of "platinum group tipping metal," and you can easily verify the separate welded tipping of a shinier silver metal contrasting against the steel alloy nib. The nib and ebonite feed are a friction fit, but there is a recessed tongue/slot matching the shape of the back end of the nib. There is no question where the nib should be positioned when sliding back into the section, and when it is fully seated. The feed can be set a bit farther back from the nib tip to optimize ink flow. Nathan gives a diagram illustration of being able to easily carve the ebonite feed to further enhance ink flow or air. He actually numbers the horizontal feed vents and gives suggestions of how many vents to open up with a razor to give more generous flow...all the way to having a gusher (see above handout). I have had no need to modify how it came stock. This feed also has a small plastic breathing vent tube that goes back and ending inside the hollow plunger rod. Nathan said that some of these feeds may need to be flushed a couple times in a dilute ammonia & drop of dish soap in a glass to clean off any residual machining oils. I did not do that with the prototypes he sent me.

To fill the pen, you unscrew the barrel from the back of the section. The plunger filler system is a removable cartridge chamber that is the fastest filling system with this quantity of ink that I have seen. Two plunges with nib/feed and front of section in the ink, and the chamber is completely filled. This system makes it a dream to flush out ink rapidly, and it is easy to pull out the nib/feed if you want to wash or soak it. This inside chamber has the air around it once back inside the barrel, insulating against heat expansion of your hand which becomes an issue if you convert it to an eyedropper by removing the plunger chamber. Nathan wanted to make this pen easy to take apart and put back together, and without any special tools.

One of the parts that apparently can wear out over time is the plunger O-ring seal, so these initial Ahabs are being sent with a simple O-ring that you can buy at nearly any hardware store. However, the downside of this first run O-ring is it tends to have an initial sticking after it has been in a fixed position for a while. You can help dislodge it by twisting the plunger rod as you push. Once it starts moving, it then moves back and forth easily and smoothly.

When I told him this O-ring's initial sticking might result in someone ejecting ink before they were able to loosen it up, Nathan then had an O-ring specialist engineer a new double edged O-ring kind of like is used in the plunger of a plastic medical syringe. These new double edge O-rings are now available, and I highly recommend getting one or two eventually. Put a tiny bit of silicone grease on the new o-rings (no more than 1 or 2 poppy seeds is needed), and work back and forth a few times.

Other than photos, I don't know if there is anything else to mention about these new pens. I want to say again, that IMHO, the Noodler's Ahab Pen is going to blow people away. I cannot imagine that Nathan will be able to keep up with the demand, and he could easily sell these for over $100 in terms of their performance and function. He is limiting the price to only $20, which is just unbelievable. This is a pen you can feel comfortable giving to a novice because of how simple it works, how well it is designed, the quality of the materials and writing experience, and worst case they don't like fountain pens--you are out $20. It's a no brainer.

Photos to follow

OK, I have a Whaling Boatload of photos. I tried to make all of them about a 400 pixel thumbnail to help with loading time. I'll put the most important ones here, and then add the others to a new post below.


Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image



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Compares to M1000 XF tip, and second image below shows various close-up cell phone images of Ahab tipping.


Posted Image Posted Image


The rest of the photos, I will add in a new post below, as they have to do with the various parts of the pen & the O-rings.

Edited by SamCapote, 18 November 2011 - 08:45.

With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

#2 watch_art

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 03:29

DUDE! Awesome! So is the nib really that nice? I can't wait to try it out then.

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#3 Soundsider

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 03:38

Well-timed and informative. I liked the originals and look forward to Monday's release.

/Soundsider
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#4 deenurse

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 03:52

Great review, can't wait to place my order on Monday.

#5 MrsGouletPens

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 04:04

Yay! A very well-thought out and thorough review. So glad to see Nathan has produced such a knockout. Can't wait to hear everyone else's feedback after next week. :thumbup:

You mentioned flushing the pen to eliminate the residual machining oils from the feed-cutting process... I would definitely recommend this. I saw this same issue with the '2nd generation' regular-size flex pens... for anyone having flow issues, the majority were resolved simply by giving the pen a good cleaning. So I would recommend doing that with these as well... some inks won't be a problem, but others could interact with those residual oils.

And yes, replacement o-rings (the new style) will be available, I believe 2 for $1. We'll be doing a video this weekend on how to replace them. The second batch of pens later in December will come with the new o-rings already installed.

Again, great review - looking forward to your pictures!

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#6 Fabienne

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 04:33

Oh, Sam, I hate you! Posted ImageI did want to get an Ahab, now I am again obsessed with getting an Ahab. Good news all around. Thanks...and I DO mean that!Posted Image


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#7 USMCMom

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 05:49

Excellent review, Sam, thank you!!
Posted Image

#8 lovemy51

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 05:54

great, Sam! just stop talking about "it should sell for over $100", will ya'? it can give Nathan ideas...!!!???

eeehhh, where are the pix?? :embarrassed_smile:
Lovemy51 Posted Image




pleese, forgeeve my bad espelling!! Posted Image

#9 Oranges and Apples

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 06:26

great, Sam! just stop talking about "it should sell for over $100", will ya'? it can give Nathan ideas...!!!???

eeehhh, where are the pix?? :embarrassed_smile:


Pix are back up :D

#10 testrider

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 07:19

Do you have any writing samples to show the possible line variation?
Thank you.

#11 SamCapote

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 09:17

I posted most of the comparison images in the first post, so you may have to refresh the page to see them. The rest of these show the various parts of the Ahab, including some closeups of the clip, nib, feed, plunger assembly, and old vs. new O-rings. I don't think these need explanation, except that it is no small thing to get that complex design of the new O-ring. It works exceptionally well. You should be able to zoom in with the full size photos of the nib/feed and other parts. I could not get a good photo showing the carved out recessed groove that the nib fits into on the inside of the section, but you will see it if you remove the nib and feed, which just pull straight out with your fingers. The ebonite feed is extraordinary with all the channels, fin vents, and air tube.

Let me start with the clip which is shaped like a whale...ok...you need some imagination....but you can see the idea. The right side is sitting on top of the screw off cap which keeps the clip in place. Next are some views of the underside of the clip, trying to show how it is double folded over, and I could not get it to catch on a cotton shirt when clipped pen was moved all different directions.



Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image



OK, now the overall Ahab parts



Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image



OK, now a closer look at both sides of the feed with all the channels and vents



Posted Image Posted Image



And then I got a pretty close match to Nathan's stock O-ring from this cheap Chinese box of O-rings I got on Amazon or Ebay. The one that fits from this kit is marked as R-02 but if you don't have one of these kits around the house, you can just take the old one to most hardware stores that have boxes of o-ring assortments and match it up. However, the new O-ring is quite unique and well designed. I recommend picking up 1 or 2 spares...not like these wear out soon....I would guess o-rings with occasional tiny dab of silicone would last many decades--making it highly likely that if the time comes when you need an o-ring, you probably won't remember where you put the spares. LOL!



Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


OK, Sportsfans....that's all the photos I took. Man oh man, did this take a long time to do this review. The pen is worth the time I spent, and I'll probably end up with about 15 of them before I'm all done.
With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

#12 Hangglidernerd

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 10:02

Well...thanks for the review ...I think.
I was already itching a bit to get one Monday but now it full blown case of full body poison oak itching for one!
I want it I want it I want it!
I already love my 2 Noodler's flexies and now...that new nib looks...well...great.

#13 Edgar Allan Bo

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 13:47

Posted Image


woah, that nib is HUGE compared to the standard noodlers flex-pen.

#14 Soundsider

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 15:31

Sam, again...beautiful work and great, crisp photographs to support your points!

I'd like to ask you one question based on your comment about having chance to "play with" a number of pens:

The pen is worth the time I spent, and I'll probably end up with about 15 of them before I'm all done.[/b][/color][/size]


I had started a topic several days ago asking for members' positive experiences with the October re-release of Noodler's original Flex pens, and it drew several comments about concerns regarding build consistency. I only have my two original Flex instruments and with the cleaning and adjustment suggestions provided by Nathan and by Brian Goulet mine write beautifully. Can you comment on the level of consistency and build quality in the fairly large sampling of Ahabs you've worked with? Have you been able to get equivalent results with all your pens, and can you offer any "tuning" suggestions for potential new Ahab owners (hopefully including myself)?

Again, with sincere thanks,

/Soundsider
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#15 New_Falcon

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 15:40

Many thanks for the detail review.

I think that Noodler's are definitely going to have a hit on their hands.

Now I'm thinking that when these come out in plain black, I'm going to need at least 5.

Thanks again for the review and thanks to Noodlers for really bringing out some excellent products.

#16 opus7600

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 16:15

How's the smell? My Noodler's large rollerball still has a..."fragrance" that makes me uneasy when I uncap it.

#17 Scriptorium Pens

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 16:32

I was considering just one of these just to see what they were like, but with such a great review I'll definitely be getting at least 2 of them, the clear and the medieval blue for sure. Thanks for the detailed coverage! Now to wait patiently for Monday!

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#18 meowmda

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 16:46

Thanks for a great review, and the comparison shot with other pens. I'm glad this is truly a bigger pen with a wider section to hold. I really like the regular flex pens but the narrower section is kind of annoying for long periods of writing.
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#19 mirosc

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 16:53

Thank you very much. It's a great appetizer!

Two questions:
- how responsive is the nib? (how fast springing back to normal)
- how consistent are the several pens you have? (any variations in production, or are all the same quality)
Greetings,
Michael

#20 PAKMAN

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 16:55

Well I'm ready! Clear Demo for me!!

#21 Belles-lettres

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 17:13

Sam,

Thanks for the tremendous amount of time you must have spent just doing the photography. Superb job of reviewing the whale of a fine pen. Your endeavours are most appreciated here in the peanut gallery.

My regular 2nd release pens all wrote differently out of the box but after nib re-setting, they're superb, especially as fine line (no pressure) nibs. And they are just getting buttery smooth with use.

Hats off to Mr. Tardiff.
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most beautiful pen: Conway Stewart 84 red with gold veins, oh goodness gracious


#22 spinningtrees

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 18:49

Awesome review, thanks! Looking forward to a new pen soon.
I wonder if the larger nib would make for more flexibility than the original Noodler's flex pen. The new one seems a longer overall shape compared with the original.
Hats off to Nathan Tardiff for his devotion to the art.
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#23 reprieve

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 00:14

I didn't really have much interest in this pen, but after reading this review, I'll probably pick one up.

#24 SamCapote

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 02:06

I was amazed that my order from Todd came today! I now have the three new colors in addition to a duplicate demonstrator. My colors are Lapis Inferno (blue), Arizona (yellow/orange), Cardinal Darkness, & Jade. I have one other color and a 3rd demonstrator coming from Goulet Pens sometime next week. Let me post these new photos I just took, then I'll answer questions below them.



Posted Image Posted Image



Posted Image Posted Image


Have you been able to get equivalent results with all your pens, and can you offer any "tuning" suggestions for potential new Ahab owners (hopefully including myself)?


I only had the two prototypes until I got the other four today. I tested 3 of the four new ones, and they do very well out of the box. I personally get a little better flow and slightly easier flex by backing the feed a bit as shown in the photos. I don't think it is critical one way or another, so my answer (based on my sample size of 6 pens) to your question, unlike the variation problem with the earlier Noodler's Flex pens is that you will NOT see that performance variation with the Ahab.

I have not washed any of the 5 Ahabs I have now inked with soapy/weak ammonia water, but probably should have just because Nathan thought it would remove any residual machining oils. I also have not felt the need to trim out/enlarge any of the feed slots or fins.

The stock plunger O-ring arrives with pretty significant force needed to initially move it. Afterwards it moves easily....but when it sits for a while, it will again require that initial force. Take care if you have ink that you are ejecting (i.e. do it in a sink, or wrap a tissue around the nib to absorb). The new double walled O-ring has none of the sticking issue, moving smoothly from the start.

The only other difference I see between my old Lapis Inferno blue prototype and the new colors is that Nathan has inserted an extra, very thin liner inside the cap. I'm not sure why this was added, as it is not a complete cup insert. Maybe either to reinforce the cap or help prevent ink that may leak inside from staining through the wall? I'm guessing. The Demonstrators do not have this...and I'm not seeing any leakage problem into the cap after a lot of use.

How's the smell? My Noodler's large rollerball still has a..."fragrance" that makes me uneasy when I uncap it.


Well here's the reality. Ebonite, being a type of hard rubber smells....like rubber. The odor is strongest right after manufacturing, and then gradually subsides over weeks to months. These Ahabs have less rubber smell than the previous smaller Flex Pens, I just walked over to the table where the six of them are sitting, and could not smell them. I had to bring one up to less than 5-6 inches from my nose before I could smell it. The two prototypes smell less than the new ones. I really do not consider it an issue since I don't get a pen up to my nose. If you cannot ever tolerate even the slightest ebonite smell, then I would not recommend any of them for you. Otherwise, give it some time. Washing in dilute ammonia + a few drops of dish soap may lessen it also.

Thanks for a great review, and the comparison shot with other pens. I'm glad this is truly a bigger pen with a wider section to hold. I really like the regular flex pens but the narrower section is kind of annoying for long periods of writing.


Thanks! That was my main issue with the flex pens also....too narrow and tapered for my tastes.


Thank you very much. It's a great appetizer!

Two questions:
- how responsive is the nib? (how fast springing back to normal)
- how consistent are the several pens you have? (any variations in production, or are all the same quality)


That's a great question. Here's my opinion on responsiveness/spring rate....it returns to its Fine/XF very quickly, but with flexing, there is some extra ink that was ready to meet the need, so it is not as precise as you see with a 14K Waterman vintage nib that only needs a feather hand to write. The Ahab writes like most Fine point pens, and needs medium to moderate pressure to flex. So it has pro's and con's. The benefit is you are not very likely to 'spring" (bend too far with flexing) and ruin the nib, which is common for people not used to delicate, vintage nibs...especially "wet noodle" types....so I think this will be much more usable for the majority of writers--new and experienced. The downside for those who have used vintage, delicate flex nibs is that the Ahab will require more force for them. Most experience users can adapt between the types of nibs/pens.

My idea of a perfect stock nib that gives an indescribable springy responsiveness is the Pelikan M1000, with Nakaya Aka Tamenuri Cigar a close second, and MB 149 third, Duofold Centennial fourth...and I would probably put the Ahab fifth--but the Ahab also flexes. All of these six Ahabs arrived with perfect tine alignment, and no need for smoothing or adjustment. That was not the case with the earlier Noodler's Flex Pen nibs, TWSBI, Lamy Safari, or Pilot nibs. This opinion is only with my limited experience--no insult intended to those vastly more knowledgeable about nibs.

Again, all of the six Ahabs I have so far are of the same quality.

Awesome review, thanks! Looking forward to a new pen soon.
I wonder if the larger nib would make for more flexibility than the original Noodler's flex pen. The new one seems a longer overall shape compared with the original.
Hats off to Nathan Tardiff for his devotion to the art.


No question that the Ahab is easy to hold and flex than earlier models. Flow is dramatically better. If you need more flow to NEVER get any railroading, Nathan's instructions show you how to modify. They are cheap enough that if you completely screw up the ebonite feed, it's not a major loss. Don't know if some spare feeds/nibs may be made available.

And then completely separate from the Ahab, the music nib is lurking somewhere off shore....staying away from Captain Ahab's whale spear!

Edited by SamCapote, 19 November 2011 - 02:09.

With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

#25 tenney

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 02:28

And here I thought that I could resist... But... Resistance is futile!
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#26 stuartk

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 03:00

You mentioned flushing the pen to eliminate the residual machining oils from the feed-cutting process... I would definitely recommend this. I saw this same issue with the '2nd generation' regular-size flex pens... for anyone having flow issues, the majority were resolved simply by giving the pen a good cleaning. So I would recommend doing that with these as well... some inks won't be a problem, but others could interact with those residual oils.


I flushed mine out with JB Pen Flush first thing and thus didn't have any problems.

#27 stuartk

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 03:09

How's the smell? My Noodler's large rollerball still has a..."fragrance" that makes me uneasy when I uncap it.


They smell the same as the original piston-fill models. It's the same material. Personally, I kind of like the smell, but that's just me.

It does not smell like ebonite. Ebonite, or hard rubber, is strongly vulcanized, which means there are lots of sulfur atoms linking the polymer chains. You naturally get a sulfur smell, especially from a fresh surface.

#28 Scribblesoften

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 03:51

I have spent my evening playing with two Ahabs. One wrote very wet before burping ink all over my page. The second has a nib that it is so rough that it has torn paper twice when writing. I have adjusted the feed of the first for flow. Now it writes smoothly until it railroads and goes completely dry. The second one, the one with the rough nib, is now vomiting ink as well. I am going to soak them overnight and try again tomorrow. So far, my experience is typical Noodler's, they need to be fixed right out of the box. I'm a little dispirited by my inability to get these pens to write properly. I hope to have better luck tomorrow.

#29 SamCapote

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 06:20


How's the smell? My Noodler's large rollerball still has a..."fragrance" that makes me uneasy when I uncap it.


They smell the same as the original piston-fill models. It's the same material. Personally, I kind of like the smell, but that's just me.

It does not smell like ebonite. Ebonite, or hard rubber, is strongly vulcanized, which means there are lots of sulfur atoms linking the polymer chains. You naturally get a sulfur smell, especially from a fresh surface.


How could a 100% ebonite feed not smell like ebonite? I guess I'm watching too much Beavis and Butthead.
With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

#30 SamCapote

SamCapote

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 06:27

I have spent my evening playing with two Ahabs. One wrote very wet before burping ink all over my page. The second has a nib that it is so rough that it has torn paper twice when writing. I have adjusted the feed of the first for flow. Now it writes smoothly until it railroads and goes completely dry. The second one, the one with the rough nib, is now vomiting ink as well. I am going to soak them overnight and try again tomorrow. So far, my experience is typical Noodler's, they need to be fixed right out of the box. I'm a little dispirited by my inability to get these pens to write properly. I hope to have better luck tomorrow.


Something funny is going on here. One burping ink all over your page, and the other so rough it has torn paper twice? Now both of your Ahabs are "vomitting ink"? I have never had any pen that does such a thing. Not even my worse pens I have ever had behave like this.

I can confirm that all six of my Ahabs out of the box have perfect nib tine alignment. I guess we will see how others are working out.

Interesting.
With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.