The pen I am reviewing here is not the regular Aleph, but the one produced for the fountain pen.it forum. The only differences are the deep blue resin (instead of grey) and the various engravings, including name of the brand and the number at the base of the cap (mine is #035; I don't know for sure, but I would say that about 150 pens were produced). The pen was designed by fp. it administrator Daniele (danygr1974 on FPN)in partnership with the Marlen company. The name, Aleph, is the name of Daniele first born son and the first letter of the Hebraic alphabet, having also highly symbolic significance.
If my Italian didn't betray me while reading how the pen was designed, the idea was to create a modern pen with a flex steel nib close to what a vintage nib could offer. The members of fp.it voted for the filling mechanism, and here we have a piston filler.
The pen design is inspired by vintage flattops. The pen is slender, long enough so I can use it comfortably unposted even if I do have longer hands. Clearly, the pen was designed with writing and writing pleasure in mind: the grip section is long enough (think Bexley Corona) for anyone to find a good position. The Aleph would not qualify as a light pen but it's not heavy either. I would say it's in the range of a Waterman LeMan 100: 20.5g., and about 31g with the cap.
The balance is superb, posted or not, slightly on the back, letting the pen lay on the hand, but letting the weight do the job when writing.
As I said, the Aleph is a piston filling system pen. A filling system I truly love but that I have come to question these last months. I like a pen with a decent ink capacity since I hate to stop writing and refill the pen, so you can say I am not a c/c guy; and I've had my share of related ink flow trouble. But the idea a piston filler automatically holds more ink than a converter (or a cart) is indeed a misconception. I am happy (kind of) with the 1.3 ml of my Lamy 2000, compared to the .9ml of a converter, but this not even a standard. Many piston fillers are indeed captured converters. I don't think it's the case here (I didn't take the pen apart), but still the ink capacity is (only) about 1ml, according to Daniele, a number that matches my unscientific measurement (empty the pen, fill a graduated syringe with the ink... Gives me just a bit less than 1ml). It's nice to have a piston filler, but the advantage regarding ink capacity is small.
At first, the piston was a bit stiff, but after a few refills (about ten), it got a lot better, and now it's quite pleasant to use. Edit to add: Forgot an info that can be important to some: no ink window here, as to preserve the integrity of the general shape.
The Aleph features a blind cap, protecting the piston knob. This knob is made out steel and quite comfortable to use, even with big hands.
As you can see, the nib is of an interesting design.
The cuts are here to ease the flex of the nib - they do not produce the flex, but only make it easier. The nib was designed to be a flex steel nib. The material is spring steel, a steel that is very hard and that have a "shape memory", up to a point at least.
Is this design a success? Yes, and no. I will explain.
No, if the goal was to produce a full flex steel nib. It's not what you have here, and it's fair to add that neither Daniele, nor Marlen are advertising the Aleph as a flex pen. To quote Daniele "it seems that the secret of flex nibs died with those who produced them back in these days".
Yes, it's a success, because the nib is just awesome! There is indeed a nice flex to it (see comparisons, last pic at the bottom), better IMO than the Ahab/Konrad flex, easier than the Falcon's. The feeling of this nib is unique, because it does feel as a steel nib (it doesn't have what Brian Gray called the little "give" of the gold nibs), but with the flex of a semi-flex nib. One could say it's a "hard flexible nib"... This gives a great versatility to the pen as it's both an excellent writer and a pen offering the flex possibilities.
The Aleph fly on paper. I would describe the nib's behaviour as joyful and vivacious, giving a very nice writing experience to the hand.
I don't know if this is because of the design, but the nib looks longer than the regular #6 nib (don't have one here to verify). The letter "aleph" is engraved on the nib, along with the name of the brand, "Marlen". No indications of the nib size. The line is a fine-medium, and flex easily to a double board. Other nibs will be available in the near future.
The feed is a nice touch, transparent, and bi-canal, allowing a nice, generous flow. The feed is able to provide enough ink when using the nib as a flex. After several long writing sessions (two hours and more), I've experienced no ink flow problems, and the nib allows for a nice shading even when writing without flexing.
I must say this is one of the most comfortable pen I've ever used. I am now in the middle of a six months sabbatical, away from home, and took only five pens with me, including my three most comfortable writers (Lamy 2Km, Densho and Man 100). I bought the Aleph mainly as a "souvenir" of my stay in Italy, so I didn't expect to have a pen I would use for writing. After several writing sessions of more than two hours, I experienced no discomfort at all, and if the Aleph is not a match to the Lamy 2Km, it's without a doubt my best second pen.
The Aleph is very carefully made, also there was some complaints about the nib-feed alignment (annoying because it's a unit). As far as I know, these problems, and some others,were diligently cared for by the people at Marlen's, and if you consider the fp.it limited edition as a kind of "post prototype", the regular edition should be problem free.
The cap needs three turns to unscrew, not ideal for casual, quick notes; but the nib can stay open a good ten minutes without drying, at least with the Penman Saphir I am using now.
The acrylic used for the fp.it model is a deep blue with a pattern I would describe as "milky way". It gives an amazing feeling when one look at it, the impression of looking deep into the universe, contemplating the beginning of time... Well, I like it a lot... The acrylic feels strong in the hand, excellent quality I am sure.
The engravings are well made, not too invasive contrary to what I feared. On the cap, you have the aleph letter and the number of the pen (035 in my case) and on the body, Marlen Italy, Fountainpen.it Aleph and they are very discrete, not "jump into your face" as I feared it could be since at least three different polices were used for the texts.
The cap has three steel rings at the bottom, the only decoration of the Aleph. The clip is also steel and the weight it adds is not a bother at all and does not unbalance the pen when posted, as it does with the Delta Titanio (a rather short pen) or even with the Lamy 2000 when the clip is not in the right, top position. The attach is of the same kind as the Densho, a small piece of steel coming strait out of the cap and attached to the clip in some way (in the Densho case, with two rivets in a visible way; here I am not sure). I know some don't like this, but I do, and time will tell if it's strong enough. The clip works fine.
The pen came with a 30ml of brown (for others it was green) ink in a bottle that looks like a Pelikan's, just with the name Marlen on it.
Marlen and Daniele went for a ecofriendly box, and I for one think they made a great job. I don't really care for big, shinny boxes, so you can say I love this one. I hope the regular Aleph will come in th same box.
Price and numbers:
The fp.it Aleph was 99euros (135$), for a total of 129euros (176$), taxes and shipping included. I think it's a great price for such a pen, and even at the regular Marlen price, the pen is more than worth it: 169euros (230$). As a reminder, that's about the price of a Lamy 2000 in a BM store, and the metal Falcon, which is not a piston filler, has a 300$ recommended price, and is sold for about 240$. The resin model is cheaper (180$/150$), but doesn't take the CON-70, and the quality of the plastic used is not even near the Aleph's.
Weight: 30.9g.; 20.5 without the cap
Length: 143mm; 135mm open
Diameter: 14mm; 11.5 at the threads ; 9mm at the most narrow of the grip.
For better pics:
And for questions about flex:
Edited by Namo, 20 May 2014 - 12:58.