I have long had a fascination with woodgrain Red Hard Rubber pens, and began to consider an Edison pen earlier this year for two reasons: the idea of a custom made pen appealed to me, and I had a couple nibs I liked that were in pens too thin for me to use comfortably. As it turns out none of those nibs would fit without significant modification, but what I received is even better! First impressions? Big pen, beautiful pen, a pen made to my specifications by a master craftsman. Before I say anymore, let me express my thanks to Brian for his kind permission to use these photographs he took of my pen just after its completion.
Appearance & Design (8) - Attractive balance of vintage styling and modern size
I like the torpedo shape of the Sheaffer Balance pens, but they are all too small for me: the standard model too thin, and both the standard and oversize models too short to comfortably use unposted. The basic design of Brian's Herald has a vintage styling, especially when combined with the red/black swirl ebonite. This model is a bit longer than the standard Herald (more on that below). At first glance the cap appears large, but not disproportional. I guess I am more accustomed to smaller pens. The cap and barrel do balance quite well both visually and as you hold the pen unopened in your hand, so the requested modifications turned out nicely.
Using a swirl ebonite is always tricky, as you never know exactly how it will look when finished. For the most part I am pleased. There is one large section of the barrel that is sort of plain brown, but the rest of the pen shows the grain and contrasting red/black coloring quite well. The use of ebonite, and in this particular color/pattern satisfies my desire for a vintage woodgrain Red Hard Rubber pen, without the prohibitive cost of obtaining an oversize Wahl. If the swirl had ended up more consistently vibrant I would give this one a perfect 10 because of the customized design.
Construction & Quality (8) - The work of an artisan
Holding this pen, you realize it is a piece of fine craftsmanship. The tolerances are tight, all threaded parts operate smoothly, there are no signs of cutting corners in the manufacturing process. A previous modern ebonite pen (Bexley 10th Anniversary) felt somewhat unsubstantial and I wondered how durable it would be. I have no such concerns with this pen. One of the threads on the barrel appears to have been cut down, but the cap holds securely on all the others.
This pen goes beyond a well-constructed sum of its parts. The thoughtful design process that precedes the actual construction is clearly evident, maybe even more so on this particular model because the modifications I asked for caused Brian to have to think about how to combine features from two different model pens. As we discussed my wishes over the telephone he came to a decision that was mutually satisfactory within just a couple minutes. The apex of this custom-fit personalized service was the ability to watch Brian make my very pen via the webcam in his shop. That was remarkable!
Weight & Dimensions (9) - Comfortably light for its size
I asked Brian to use the longer grip section from the Huron, so he had to lengthen the cap to accommodate the section, and then the barrel to balance with the longer cap. I asked for an uncapped length similar to my Pelikan 800 (128 mm) and Omas Paragon (130 mm), two pens whose length are about perfect for me. Because of the tapered barrel I wanted to be sure and avoid the problem of Sheaffer Balance pens feeling too short in my hand. Brian had to go a bit longer (132 mm) to balance the longer cap, but it feels just right. In fact, when I measured it I was very happy to discover its uncapped dimensions to be nearly identical to my Aurora 88, another pen I find very comfortable. Though the grip section is shaped slightly differently near the nib, it is almost identical in length to the Aurora 88/Optima--my favorite section--which makes this an ideal pen in terms of writing ergonomics.
Here are the specs:
length uncapped: 132 mm
length capped: 157
length cap posted: 188
grip diameter (at narrowest): 9
barrel diameter (at widest): 13
I don't have a way to precisely measure the weight of something so light, so I'll give you my subjective experience in the place of raw data. As mentioned earlier this pen feels more substantial than the Bexley I owned a few years ago, but the ebonite construction makes it a very light pen for its dimensions. I have been writing with it quite a bit since its arrival, and my hand has not tired at all. You know how a room's temperature is ideal when you don't notice it? That's the way the weight of this pen is, neither too light nor too heavy.
Nib & Performance (9) - Typical Aurora, slightly tweaked
Here is another place my pen differs from the standard Herald. I obtained, rather inexpensively, an 18k Aurora nib that began life as a broad but had been cut down to a fine. I love the feel of Aurora nibs on the page. Not so buttery smooth that you don't know you are using a fountain pen, but not scratchy. In other words, a tactile experience of moving a nib across paper. I asked Brian if this nib would fit his feed/collar without modification. He said he thought so, but wouldn't know until he had it. I sent it to him as soon as I received it, and he emailed shortly thereafter saying it was a perfect fit.
Brian adjusted it to his normal flow and alignment, and it writes a lovely fine line. The high rating here indicates not merely my satisfaction with the Aurora nib, but primarily with Brian for his willingness to use a customer-supplied nib, with consequent price modification.
Filling System & Maintenance (9) - Converter convenience with Eyedropper possibilities
The Schmidt converter required only one treatment to break surface tension, and has worked perfectly from the very first fill. I have not yet taken advantage of the pen's eyedropper capability because I am still using various inks before settling on the "one" that will be perfect for this pen. Since I rotated a half dozen inks through it the first day, I can say it is a very easy pen to flush, clean, and fill. With the Aurora nib in this modified pen it is like having a beautiful ebonite Aurora 88 eyedropper pen! High marks not only for ease of use, but for versatility.
Cost & Value (8) - My most expensive pen, but worth it
I have never before spent over $200 for a single pen. The expensive pens I own were all acquired used, at substantial savings. However, the opportunity to have a pen designed to my specifications, and hand-made by a man with considerable artistic and technical skills is a rare treasure. Then to watch it being transformed from solid rod stock into a gorgeous pen before my very eyes was quite a treat. Brian's attention to detail--not only in the design and creation of his pens, but also in taking time to talk through the modification process with the customer--is not something to which you can easily assign value, but it is highly prized. Marks off for me spending so much (cost), but added back for the customization and personal touch (value).
Conclusion (Final score: 8.5) - No one else has a pen like this!
I know the marks are rather high, but this is no ordinary pen. In fact, there is no other pen like it. It is not the standard size Herald because of modifications I requested. No other red/black swirl ebonite pen will ever look exactly like this one, and no other Aurora nib has been modified just like this one. I rather like having a pen unique to me, but the high marks are not just for the custom design. It writes wonderfully every time the nib touches paper, and that is the most important factor in evaluating a pen.
[edited to correct a couple spelling errors]
Edited by Doug Add, 03 December 2009 - 15:47.